1st Edition

Religious Freedom and the Global Regulation of Ayahuasca

Edited By Beatriz Caiuby Labate, Clancy Cavnar Copyright 2023

    This book offers a comprehensive view of the legal, political, and ethical challenges related to the global regulation of ayahuasca, bringing together an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars. Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew containing N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is a Schedule I substance under the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the legality of its ritual use has been interpreted differently throughout the world. The chapters in this volume reflect on the complex implications of the international expansion of ayahuasca, from health, spirituality, and human rights impacts on individuals, to legal and policy impacts on national governments. While freedom of religion is generally protected, this protection depends on the recognition of a religion’s legitimacy, and whether particular practices may be deemed a threat to public health, safety, or morality. Through a comparative analysis of different contexts in North America, South America, and Europe in which ayahuasca is consumed, the book investigates the conceptual, philosophical, and legal distinctions among the fields of shamanism, religion, and medicine. It will be particularly relevant to scholars with an interest in indigenous religion and in religion and law.

    List of Contributors

    Introduction: The Regulation of Ayahuasca and Its Challenges: From the Global to the Local

    Beatriz Caiuby Labate, Clancy Cavnar and Henrique Fernandes Antunes

    1 Ayahuasca Vision 2021: Legal Status of Ayahuasca in the United States

    Sean T. McAllister

    2 Church of the Holy Light of the Queen v. Mukasey: The Regulation of a Santo Daime Church in the State of Oregon

    Henrique Fernandes Antunes

    3 Intersecting Cultures: Exploring Ayahuasca’s Legal and Ethical Journey in Canada

    Emma Garrod and Katrina Blommaert

    4 Regulating Ayahuasca in the United Kingdom: Proactive Approaches

    Charlotte Walsh

    5 Santo Daime in Belgium and the Netherlands: Prejudice, Pluralism, and the Daunting Quest for Religious Freedom in Europe

    Ben Meeus

    6 The Landscapes of Ayahuasca in Contemporary France

    Clara Novaes and Marie Rose Moro, Translated from French by Jo Ann Cahn

    7 Ayahuasca and Freedom of Religion in Australia: Entheogens in a Post-Colonial Shadow

    Amar Dhall, Torsten Wiedemann and Manav Satija

    8 A Genealogy of the Ayahuasca Cultural Heritage Registration Process in Brazil

    Beatriz Caiuby Labate and Glauber Loures de Assis

    9 "Authorization? That’s Outrageous:" Ayahuasca Environmental Legislation and Indigenous Populations in Brazil

    Beatriz Caiuby Labate, Henrique Fernandes Antunes and Igor Fernandes Antunes

    10 Debates on the Legality and Legitimacy of Yage in Colombia

    Alhena Caicedo Fernández

    11 Ayahuasca in Uruguay: Legal Aspects and Public Debates on Drugs and Religion

    Juan Scuro, Ismael Apud and Sebastián Torterola

    12 Mystics or Criminals? "Cults," Religion, and Drugs

    Massimo Introvigne

    13 A Defense Expert Witness on Ayahuasca: An Interview with José Carlos Bouso

    Beatriz Caiuby Labate

    Afterword: A Call for Public Support against the Current Demonization of Ayahuasca Practices in Spain

    Beatriz Caiuby Labate, Henrique, Fernandes Antunes, Galuber Lores de Assis and Clancy Cavnar


    Beatriz Caiuby Labate (Bia Labate) is a queer Brazilian anthropologist based in San Francisco. She has a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil. Her main areas of interest are the study of plant medicines, drug policy, shamanism, ritual, religion, and social justice. She is Executive Director of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines and serves as Public Education and Culture Specialist at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). She is also Visiting Scholar at Naropa University’s Center for Psychedelic Studies and Advisor at the Veteran Mental Health Leadership Coalition. Dr. Labate is a co-founder of the Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies (NEIP) in Brazil and editor of its site. She is author, co-author, and co-editor of twenty-six books, two special-edition journals, and several peer-reviewed articles (https://bialabate.net).

    Clancy Cavnar has a doctorate in clinical psychology (PsyD) from John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, CA. She currently works in private practice in San Francisco, and is Co-Founder and a member of the Board of Directors of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines. She is also a research associate of the Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies (NEIP). She combines an eclectic array of interests and activities as clinical psychologist, artist, and researcher. She has a master of fine arts in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute, a master’s in counseling from San Francisco State University, and she completed the Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). She is author and co-author of articles in several peer-reviewed journals and co-editor, with Beatriz Caiuby Labate, of eleven books. For more information see: http://www.drclancycavnar.com