Harvesting peyote. Harvesting peyote.

Will peyote be next for Supreme Court?

Justices to discuss status of religious sect that uses the drug in rituals

The federal government broke earlier this year with its conservative stand on recreational drug use by moving to liberalize laws governing marijuana, propelled by a Supreme Court decision in 2015.

Now that the court is set to discuss the official status of a native American religious sect, can peyote be far behind?

Some 5,000 members of the Native American Church of Mexico have been fighting to get official recognition from the Mexican government for over three years.

Created in Mexico in 1994, the Peyote Religion, or Peyotism, as it is also known, is a native American religion characterized by mixed traditional beliefs as well as Protestant ones, and by its sacramental use of peyote, a small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline.

Native to the deserts of northern Mexico and southwestern Texas, it has been used by native North Americans for spiritual purposes for at least 5,500 years.

Peyote is a word in Náhuatl, the Aztec language, said to be derived from the root meaning “glisten” or “glistening” and has been interpreted as “divine messenger” in recent years.

The Native American Church of Mexico first requested official recognition from the Interior Secretariat in 2013, but it was denied.

According to the law of religious associations, the cult failed to prove several crucial requisites, including prominent support within Mexican society, a body of religious beliefs (akin to the Christian Bible or the Muslim Quran) and notification to the government when it began operating in Mexico.

For the church’s legal representative, the reasons are “discriminatory.”

In an amparo filed before the Supreme Court by Cinthia Espinola, the religious organization claims that “the constitutional issue of the lawful protection that should be provided to the [church’s] religious ceremonies, which constitute a human right, is unresolved.”

Espinola has belonged to the Native American Church for seven years after her boyfriend introduced her and took her on a “vision quest.”

“Your family, emotional and work life improve,” she said of the church’s influence on her life.

The Supreme Court will discuss the registration of the church as a religion on Wednesday, but will leave discussion of the use of peyote in its rituals for another day.

The Peyote Religion has an estimated 250,000 adherents in Canada, the United States and Mexico. In the latter it has a presence in the states of Coahuila, Monterrey, Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Morelia, Chiapas, Veracruz, Nayarit and Mexico City, with a total of some 5,000 followers.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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