Collage of Eagle and Condor with Ayahuasca in Pot

Church of the Eagle and the Condor Can Now Drink Ayahuasca Legally in the US

The Church of Eagle and Condor becomes the third organization in the United States to obtain religious exemption from the Controlled Substances Act to legally use ayahuasca.

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The prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor has manifested. Following a years-long legal battle, the Church of the Eagle and the Condor has successfully settled with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to legally use ayahuasca as an integral part of its religious practices, according to a press release

The Church of the Eagle and the Condor is officially the first non-Christian church to obtain such legal protections. This also marks the first time in history that a church has received federal authorization to import and facilitate ayahuasca without going to trial. This historic settlement has promising implications for other Indigenous-rooted and syncretic faiths hoping to work with entheogens.

“This settlement reaffirms our right to practice our spirituality as we have always known,” says Belinda P. Eriacho, board member of the Church of the Eagle and the Condor, and member of the Diné / A:shwii lineages. “It is a recognition by the US government and an important milestone in honoring and validating Indigenous belief systems.”

READ: The DEA is Playing God with Psychedelic Churches

The terms of settlement are grounded in the rights granted under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides greater protection under the “Free Excercise” clause of the First Amendment. In this specific application of RFRA, the Church of the Eagle and the Condor will receive religious immunity, specifically from the United States Controlled Substances Act (CSA)—the DEA’s bible and the vanguard of the drug war. 

“The CEC’s beliefs, shaped by their vision of a universal spirituality and rooted in Indigenous ways, are entitled to respect by the government,” says Martha Hartney, who served as general counsel for the Church of the Eagle and the Condor. “The resolution of this case represents the government’s recognition of this community’s right to exercise their religious beliefs without interference. Their success is a watershed moment in the United States.”

The details of the settlement highlight exactly why this win is monumental. They grant the Church of the Eagle, and the Condor doesn’t just get to drink ayahuasca legally now—they’re receiving Schedule I Permits to import, prepare, manufacture, store, and distribute ayahuasca for ceremonies.

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“As counsel for the Church of the Eagle and the Condor, we achieved everything we sought in filing the Complaint,” says Gilbert Carrasco, counsel for the Church of the Eagle and the Condor, to DoubleBlind. From our perspective, we completely vindicated the religious freedom that the statute and the Constitution demand. The Church is the paradigmatic ‘prevailing party’ within the meaning of the law. It was truly an honor to represent these honorable people and to establish the dignity of their Church.”

Of course, Customs and Border Patrol still has the right to “inspect, sample, seize, detain, or take any other action with regard to [the Church of the Eagle and the Condor’s] ayahuasca, once CBP determines that such activities should be undertaken in compliance with this Agreement.” The Church of Eagle and Condor will also likely be subject to check-ins and walk-throughs with the DEA to ensure they are compliant. The DEA also holds that they can essentially revoke registration if the church fails to meet the criteria outlined within Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which relates to Food and Drugs. 

It’s a small price to pay for such a massive feat. This pivotal agreement not only underscores the authenticity of Indigenous spiritual customs within the US legal framework, but it also officially recognizes the Church of the Eagle and the Condor as a legitimate religious entity. In the United States, only two other churches—Santo Daime and the União do Vegetal (UDV)—are exempt from the CSA to use ayahuasca. Outside of those two ayahuasca churches, the Native American Church (NAC) and the Peyote Way Church of God have religious exemption from the CSA to use peyote in thier religious ceremonies. The DEA has a history of denying protections to entheogenic churches seeking religious exemption, however, making this recent settlement an even bigger win.

”Ayahuasca ceremony is an essential sacrament for our church,” says Joseph Tafur MD, the Church of Eagle and Condor’s ayahuasquero. “Our ceremony is rooted in the Shipibo Amazonian tradition which has been passed down by countless generations. Now, in fulfillment of the ancient Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor, this tradition has come to North America.”

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