Current situation of the Santo Daime in France

Lisiane Vilas Boas Janeta and Timberê Vilas Boas Janeta (
Revised by Clara Novaes

Translated from Portuguese to English by Gayle

In early 2005, people connected to Santo Daime in France, having proven that ayahuasca was used by them as a sacrament in the form of an infusion of various plants and not as pure DMT, were freed from any prosecution related to the use of DMT present in the drink (Cours d’appel de Paris 10ème chambre, section b., Dossier N° 04/01888; January 13, 2005).
That same year, a few months later, the French state placed not only DMT, but all the plants that go into the composition of the Santo Daime tea, into its list of proscribed drugs (Arrêté du 20 avril 2005, modifiant l ‘ arrêté du 22 février 1990 fixant la liste des substances classées comme stupéfiants [Order of April 20, 2005 modifying the order of February 22, 1990 fixing the list of substances classified as drugs]. J.O. No. 102, May 3, 2005, page 7636, text no. 18). It is worth noting that France is the only country in the world to have taken such a measure.
More recently, in October 2011, German customs alerted French customs of the presence of a banned substance from Brazil. On October 10, two couples of the Ardèche region in southern France were questioned after receiving five litres of Santo Daime tea. Summoned by the police, they explained that the drink was used for religious purposes. However, they received a summons to appear in the Court of Privas. In November 15, 2012, the four made their appearance to the authorities.
The people charged decided at first not to defend themselves from accusations of “the import, possession, use and supply of narcotics,” considering that, even if the judge is merciful, he does not have the power to remove the plants from the list of narcotic drugs.
For the past several years, all people facing charges in France have been able to make a “QPC” (“Constitutional Priority Question”) that brings the very Constitution into question. They opted for this possibility. So, on November 15, 2012, the lawyer responsible for the case decided to send three “QPCs” to the Court of Privas. In other words, the accused Daimistas will attempt to find out if the legal articles that prohibit the practice of Santo Daime in France are valid under the Constitution through this Act, which fortuatenly accepted by the Court of Privas.
Now, these three issues will be sent to the Cour de Cassation, the highest body of the judicial order, which will decide if they can be studied by the Constitutional Council. The Constitutional Council is a French institution created by the Constitution of 1958 to ensure the regularity of national elections and referendums. It decides on the conformity of laws and regulations with the Constitution and also intervenes in certain circumstances of parliamentary and public life.
So, if these three “QPCs” are accepted, there will be no trial of the Daimistas involved in the case, and it will open a new era for the treatment of Santo Daime in France. If they are not accepted, the French Daimistas will be brought to trial May 16, 2013.
Here are the three questions prepared by the lawyer for the French Daimistas challenging articles of the Constitution of that country (* see below for the original French):
1) regarding the inclusion of ayahuasca in the list of proscribed drugs in France:
“Would the application of articles 36, 222-222-222 and 37-41 of the Penal Code and articles L3421-1 and L 5132-7 of the Public Health Code to Ayahuasca, which is listed as a narcotic by simple decree without the notion of “narcotic drug” being defined by law, be in accordance with the procedure laid down in article 34 of the Constitution and article 8 of the Declaration of Human Rights of 1789, which requires the law to determine crimes and offences and the penalties applied to them? “
2) on religious freedom:
“Would articles L.3421-1 of the Public Health Code, and 222-36 and 37-222 of the Penal Code, which punish with imprisonment and fine the use, possession, transport, supply and importation of Ayahuasca, a drink consumed in private use in the context of a religious rite, be in accordance with the procedure laid down in article 10 of the Declaration of Human Rights of 1789, which provides that no one may be molested in their religious views as long as their manifestation does not disturb the public order? “
3) on respect for private life:
“Would the article L 3421-1 of the code of health, which punishes the illicit narcotic use by a person of legal age in a private domicile with a penalty of one year imprisonment, be in accordance with articles 4 and 5 of the Declaration of Human Rights of 1789, which defines freedom as the right to do everything that does not harm others or society, as well as with the principle of proportionality of punishment, which prohibits the legislation of penalties disproportionate to the gravity of the infraction?
We expect that justice will be done.
(*) Originals QPF in French:
1. «Les articles 222-36, 222-37 et 222-41 du Code Pénal ainsi que les articles L.3421-1 et L. 5132-7 du Code de la Santé Publique, appliqués à l’Ayahuasca classé dans les stupéfiants par un simple arrêté sans que la notion de « stupéfiant » soit définie par la loi, sont-ils conformes à l’article 34 de la Constitution et à l’article 8 de la Déclaration des droits de l’homme de 1798 qui exigent que la loi détermine les crimes et délits et les peines qui leur sont applicables ?».
2. «Les articles L. 3421-1 du Code de la Santé Publique, 222-36 et 222-37 du Code Pénal, en ce qu’ils punissent de peines d’emprisonnement et d’amende l’usage, la détention, le transport, l’offre, la cession et l’importation d’Ayahuasca, breuvage absorbé en privé dans le cadre d’un rite religieux, sont-ils conformes à l’article 10 de la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme de 1789 qui prévoit que nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions religieuses dès lors que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l’ordre public ?».
3. «L’article L 3421-1 du Code de la Santé qui réprime l’usage illicite de stupéfiant commis par un individu majeur à son domicile privé d’une peine d’un an d’emprisonnement, est-il conforme aux articles 4 et 5 de la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme de 1789 qui définissent la liberté individuelle comme le droit de faire tout ce qui ne nuit pas à autrui ou à la société, ainsi qu’au principe de proportionnalité des peines qui interdit au législateur de prévoir des sanctions disproportionnées au regard de la gravité de l’infraction?».