Thursday, June 24, 2004
Vision quests protected by Utah high court

The use of peyote in Native American spiritual ceremonies is a centuries old tradition and has long been accorded legal status under federal law. Thanks to a decision this week by the Utah Supreme Court, that right has been extended to include all practitioners of Native American religions even if they are not members of a federally recognized tribe.

Attorneys for the state argued there is no exception in state law for the use of peyote by Indians and said that even if the court ruled there was such an exception, it could not be extended to cover non-Indians.

The high court ruled that state law incorporates the federal regulation but does not specify a restriction on peyote use only by members of federally recognized tribes. Use of the hallucinogenic drug is limited to bona fide religious ceremonies as part of the Native American Church, Justice Jill Parrish wrote.

The court rightly noted that, "permitting the exemption for some church members and not others would violate the equal-protection clause in the United States Constitution."

Thanks to CCLE, who made the decision available here.


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