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UDV New Mexico Ayahuasca Case
Timeline and Overview of Events
by MA
Jan 2002
See also:
UDV's Ayahuasca Trial Starts (November, 2001)
Preliminary Injunction Granted (August, 2002)


1999 May
The Customs Service seized the UDV's tea in May of 1999. The federal government filed no criminal charges, but threatened to do so.

2000 Nov
UDV filed their suit in November of 2000, claiming violations of the First Amendment (Free Exercise of Religion), the Fourth Amendment (Search and Seizure), the Fifth Amendment (Due Process), the Fourteenth Amendment (Due Process, Equal Protection), and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA, an act of Congress, i.e. a federal statute), as well as international treaties/laws. UDV asked the court to enjoin the government from prosecuting them, to compel the government to give back the seized tea, and to declare that ayahuasca is not illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.
Text of filing: Complaint

2000 Dec
In December of 2000, the UDV filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, similar to the suit above.
Text of filing: Request for Preliminary Injunction

2001 Jan
Defendent (government) files a response to the preliminary injunction.
Text of filing: Defendents Reply to Preliminary Injunction

2001 Feb 1
Defendent (government) answers the complaint by the UDV.
Text of filing: Defendent's Answer

2001 Feb 12
Plaintiff (UDV) files a reply to Governments arguments.
Text of filing: Plaintiff's Reply

2001 Nov
In November of 2001, the trial court held hearings for about 2 weeks regarding the motion for a preliminary injunction.

2002 Aug
In August of 2002, the trial court granted the UDV's motion for a preliminary injunction, but only enjoined the government from prosecuting, not compelling them to return the tea. The court rejected the UDV's constitutional claims, and only approved the RFRA claim. They also said that ayahuasca is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act, but that the RFRA would create an exception for organized religions like the UDV. The government and UDV worked out an extensive deal under which the UDV would be allowed to import/distribute/use their tea, but under the strict supervision of the DEA.
Text of filing: Preliminary Injunction Granted, August 2002
Rules of injunction: November 2002 Specific Rules for Prelimary Injunction

2002 Nov
In November of 2002, government applied to the appellate court for an emergency stay of the trial court's injunction. The appellate court granted the government's motion in December, temporarily halting the trial court's injunction. The matter is scheduled for re-consideration in March of 2003, in Denver.

2002 Dec
On December 18, 2002, the plaintiff (UDV) filed an emergency motion for reconsideration of the court's order granting the government's motion for an emergency stay pending appeal This was filed because the court granted a stay of the court's earlier injunction.
Text of filing: December 2002 Motion

2003 Sep
US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of the UDV, upholding the preliminary injunction that stopped the DEA from arresting UDV members or seizing their DMT-containing tea.

2004 Nov
US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirms their earlier ruling after re-hearing the case "en banc", which means that it was heard by all of the judges in that appellate circuit. Cases are heard en banc when they are considered particularly challenging or important. See 10th Circuit Court Affirms Preliminary Injunction.

Dec 2, 2004
Supreme Court of U.S. stays the lower courts' decisions to allow a preliminary injunction. See the Drug Policy Alliance Summary. The hearing and further decision on this will take some time.

2004 Dec 10
Supreme Court of U.S. lifts its own stay and allowed the preliminary injunction to continue, thus allowing the UDV Church to continue its use of ayahusca while the case proceeds. AP Story "Court allows church to use hallucinogenic tea".

2005 Feb 10
U.S. Attorney General's Office has filed another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to ask the court to overturn the preliminary injunction. See the submitted brief here.

2005 Apr 18
U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the Government's appeal of the preliminary injunction. Associated Press Story.

2005 Nov 1
U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on preliminary injunction. See High Court Hears Hallucinogenic Tea Case (AP), SCOTUSblog.

2006 Feb 21
U.S. Supreme Court finds in favor of the UDV in the re-hearing of the preliminary injunction. See UDV Wins Supreme Court Decision on Preliminary Injunction.