by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver,
upheld a preliminary injunction against the U.S. attorney general, the Drug
Enforcement Administration and other government agencies that sought to
prohibit the tea's use.
The panel majority agreed with the U.S. District Court in
New Mexico that the Brazil-based O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do
Vegetal church had "demonstrated a
substantial likelihood of success" of winning an exemption for sacramental
use of the tea, which contains a drug barred by the Controlled Substances
Jeffrey Bronfman, president of the church, sued the Justice
Department alleging, among other claims, violations of the First Amendment
and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Bronfman sued after 30
gallons of hoasca tea were seized by U.S. Customs agents from his office in
Santa Fe, N.M. No one was arrested in the 1999 raid.
Hoasca tea, used in some religious ceremonies, is brewed
from plants found only in the Amazon River Basin.
The church originated in Brazil and its U.S. operations are
based in Santa Fe. About 130 people, many of them Brazilian citizens, are
members of the U.S. branch, according to court documents.