Court DENIES SG Application for Stay of "Hoasca Tea" Injunction!
marty.lederman at comcast.net
Fri Dec 10 11:40:59 PST 2004
2:06 PM | Lyle Denniston Link to this Post
Tea injunction stands
The Supreme Court on Friday denied the Justice Department's request to allow it to enforce a ban on religious use of a hallucinogenic substance, hoasca tea, during the pendency of the government's petition challenging a court's decision that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act likely requires a religious exemption from the Controlled Substances Act. A federal judge in New Mexico, relying upon RFRA, has granted a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the CSA as to a religious group's use of the tea.
Here is the Court's order Friday in Ashcroft v. O Centro Espirita, 04A469:
"The application for a stay of injunction or, in the alternative, to recall and stay the mandate presented to Justice Breyer and by him referred to the Court is denied. The temporary stay entered December 1, 2004, is vacated."
There was no indication of any dissent.
[Addendum from Marty Lederman: What this means, as a practical matter, is that the members of the UDV will be able to use hoasca in religious rituals, notwithstanding the Controlled Substances Act, for an extended period -- almost certainly the most significant RFRA exemption to federal law in the history of that statute. Assuming the SG petitions for certiorari on the preliminary injunction (rather than going back to district court for a trial on the merits), and further assuming that the Court grants the petition and rules for the Government, it will likely be at least a year until the Court overturns the injunction. And by the time the Court hears arguments in the case, presumably there will be some evidence concerning whether the RFRA exemption has caused the harms -- in terms of health risks, diversion to improper (non-RFRA-exempted) use, and damage to U.S. efforts in the international narcotics-interdiction campaign -- that the government has articulated. (Of course, if the Government does not return to the district court, it might be very difficult to figure out a way to include in the record of the case any intervening evidence of the experience under the RFRA exemption.)]
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