Biography/Memoir

In 2016, the ‘First Legal Ayahuasca Church’ got shut down. Was it a scam…?

The [‘Church’]… distinguished itself quickly as the most brazen and ambitious ayahuasca outfit of its kind. Most organizations serving ayahuasca work quietly.

Few require as substantial a financial commitment as Ayahuasca Healings was asking—a donation of as much as $1,997 for a four-day retreat… They started pitching Ayahuasca Healings online, towards the end of 2015, news of the group’s upcoming retreats was broadcast everywhere from psychonaut forums and YouTube channels dedicated to psychedelic and spiritual experiences to popular media outlets… It was the group’s claim to legality that attracted the most skepticism, though. The founders of Ayahuasca Healings… [stated] their activities were protected by their relationship with the controversial Oklevueha Native American Church, though neither the Church Director and Chief Medicine Man, is from the U.S. As a chapter of Oklevueha, Ayahuasca Healings called itself a Native American Church and assumed that legal exemptions that had been provided to native religious groups in the past made their retreats legal.   There are… practical reasons to set up… organization[s]… [One Church Founder wrote]… “We knew we were here to target people who were not able to go to Peru.” … He also believed that there was a provision in American law which would cover the activities the group was planning—which, in his words, “gives Americans or anyone in the United States the constitutional right to practice their religion, whatever they deem that to be,” even if that religion includes the consumption of otherwise illegal substances. Despite their outward confidence… founders did realize that the law they were depending on, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, did not offer… protection for spiritually inflected drug use. They promised that their ceremonies would be “100 percent legal.”

Original Article (Atlas Obscura):
In 2016, the ‘First Legal Ayahuasca Church’ got shut down.
Artwork Fair Use: Penarc