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Freedom of Religion versus the Psychotropic Substance Treaty
Part 2

Court Case in Holland against the use of Ayahuasca
by the Dutch Santo Daime Church.

by Arno Adelaars (Arno's Homepage)
May 2001

  1. Court Trial
  2. Decision Part 1
  3. Decision Part 2
  4. Decision Part 3

Amsterdam - On Monday 7 May 2001 the second session in the court case against Geraldine Fijneman, head of the Amsterdam branch of the Santo Daime church took place. The court wanted additional information on the combination of ayahuasca and cannabis.

Toxicologist professor De Wolff said he had mentioned the combination ayahuasca and cannabis in the first session of the court case on 23 march 2001, but he didn't mean to emphasize the risks." From a professional point of view I have to accentuate the unknown effects of this combination. But at the same time I can't imagine it is a risky combination." When asked by the defense laywer mr. Adele van der Plas, he stressed the need to do scientific research to this combination.

Neurophysiologist Eric Fromberg agreed with De Wolff about the lack of risks involved in the combination. He said it wasn't easy to research the risks. "After years of research you might conclude all swans are white, and still it is possible a black swan might appear." Fromberg said the medical scientific literature is focused on negative effects, especially when recreational drugs are involved. As a veteran in Dutch drug help institutions Fromberg said in the late sixties and early seventies the combination of marihuana mixed with pure DMT was popular among certain groups of young recreational drug users, and although this combination is much more potent than the ayahuasca-cannabis combination, not one article was published about possible negative effects, neither in Holland, nor in the US.

Dr. J.C. Callaway, from the Kuopio University in Finland was asked by the defense laywer to write a report on the combination. Dr. Callaway is considered to be an authority in the field of ayahuasca research. He wrote in his report to the court: " there has been some recent concern in combining marijuana with Ayahuasca, however there are no scientific studies or reports to support this concern ( ) there are no known contraindications between dronabinol (synthetic THC, sold as Marinol) and MAO inhibitors or SSRI's. In fact, the anti-emetic effects of marijuana would probably alleviate at least some of the nausea and occasional vomiting often associated with the use of Ayahuasca, which suggests a pallitive effect, rather than a putative toxic effect."

He advised the court to ask the members of the Dutch Santo Daime churches about there opinion on the combination: " Rather than speculate on this matter, I think it would be more useful to ask members of the Santo Daime how many years marijuana has been used in their rituals with Ayahuasca, and if they have noticed any problems."

The Amsterdam branch and the The Hague branch of the Santo Daime church both wrote a letter to the court stating that ayahuasca is the holy sacrament of their faith. The use of cannabis, which is called Santa Maria in the Santo Daime doctrine, is experimental. "Since it is according to our opinion not illegal to smoke cannabis in Holland, we started this study. We have experience with the combined use of santo Daime (ayahuasca) and Santa Maria ( cannabis) over a period of 6 years without any negative side effects. On the contrary, the combination teached us a lot and brought us a lot of positivity. We would like to cooperate in a research on the public health aspects of the combined use of ayahuasca and cannabis."

The churches nonetheless wrote they had stopped using cannabis because ayahuasca is their holy sacrament, and they don't want to bring the most essential part of their belief in jeopardy. They emphasized that the use of cannabis in their services was a typical Dutch addition to the ceremonies.

Defense laywer Adele van der Plas repeated her line of defense based on Freedom of Religion as it is formulated in article 9 of the European Court for Human Rights and article 18 of the International Treaty of Civil and Political Rights of New York. Quoting several expert witnesses, she didn't see any public health risk in the use of ayahuasca or in the combined use of ayahuasca and cannabis.

She started a new line of defense, thanks to a letter the public prosecutor mr. Velleman had brought in during the first session on 23 March. This letter, written by the Secretary of the United Nations International Control Board in Vienna Herbert Schaepe and directed to the Inspector of Public Health of Holland Dr. Lousberg declares :

"No plants (natural materials) containing DMT are at present controlled under the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Consequently, preparations (e.g.decoctions) made of these plants, including ayahuasca are not under international control and, therefore, not subject to any of the articles of the 1971 Convention."
This letter inspired the defense laywer to take another look at the Psychotropic Substance Treaty. She studied the "Commentary on the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, done at Vienna on 21 February 1971" (United Nations, New York 1976 E/CN.7/589).

In the comments on article 32 paragraph 4 it is written:

" It may be pointed out that at the time of this writing the continued toleration of the use of hallucinogenic substances which the 1971 Conference had in mind would not require a reservation under paragraph 4. Schedule 1 does not list any of the natural hallucinogenic materials in question, but only chemical substances which constitute the active principles contained in them. The inclusion in Schedule 1 of the active principle of a subtance does not mean that the substance itself is also included therein if it is a substance clearly distinct from the substance constituing its active principle. This view is in accordance with the traditional understanding of that question in the field of international drug control. Neither the crown (fruit, mescal button) of the Peyote cactus nor the roots of the plant Mimosa hostilis nor Psilocybe mushrooms thenselves are included in Schedule 1, but only their respective active principles mescaline, DMT and psilocybine (psilocine, psilotsin)" (p.387)
Mr. Adele van der Plas said she disagreed with the verdict of the Dutch High Court (Hoge Raad) in a case about Psilocybine mushrooms. In this case in 1997 the High Court decided that even the simple act of drying mushrooms could be considered a form of preparation. According to mr. Van der Plas the notes 1227 (An infusion of the root [of M. hostilis] is used) and 1228 (beverages made from such [psilocybine containing] mushrooms are used) in the last sentence of the above mentioned comment mean that decoctions made from these natural materials are not scheduled. She therefore concluded that the accused is innocent.

The public prosecutor mr. P.C. Velleman said the High Court had studied the international treaties thoroughly. He refused the offer of judge Marcus to adjourn and study the interpretation of the defense laywer.

The court will give a verdict on 21 May, although it is possible the verdict might come earlier.

Arno Adelaars Amsterdam -The Netherlands.