Court Case in Holland against the use of ayahuasca by
the Dutch Santo Daime Church.
By Arno Adelaars ©
Amsterdam - On Monday 21 May 2001 Geraldine Fijneman, head
of the Amsterdam branch of the Santo Daime church was acquitted
by the court. Judge Marcus and his two colleagues decided
that, although it was proven that mrs. Fijneman had owned,
transported and distributed a DMT-containing substance,
her constitutional right to Freedom of Religion must be
In the verdict, the court first argued that several arguments
of the defense were not valid. The court said the preparation
of ayahuasca was not a simple preparation, because it was
a mixture of two plants. Therefore, the line of defense
that Adele van der Plas used in the second session, based
on the "Commentary on the Convention on Psychotropic Substances,
done at Vienna on 21 February 1971" (United Nations, New
York 1976 E/CN.7/589) was not valid, since the notes 1227
and 1228 of article 32 paragraph 4 were about simple preparations
of one type of plant.
The letter of Herbert Schaepe, Secretary of the United
Nations International Narcotics Control Board in Vienna
Austria to the chief of the Inspectorate for Health Care
of the Dutch Ministry of Public Health of 17 January 2001
was not important according to the court, because it is
not the Board who decides how the Psychotropic Substance
Treaty should be interpreted.
The court agreed with the defense laywer that the Santo
Daime church is a serious and bonafide religion, and although
ayahuasca contains the scheduled substance DMT, it is considered
the holy sacrament without which the defendant can't profess
The court declared that according to article 9 paragraph
2 of the European Treaty of Human Rights every person has
a right to profess his religion, unless there is threat
to public safety, public order, public health or good manners.
The prosecutor argued that ayahuasca was a threat to public
health, but didn't give any proof of public health risks
involving the use of ayahuasca said judge Marcus. The judge
stated that expert witness toxicologist De Wolff had declared
there were currently no public health risks concerning the
use of ayahuasca within the setting of a Santo Daime service.
The lack of public health risks and the emphasis that should
be placed on the constitutional Freedom of Religion made
the court decide in favor of the defendant.
Both the defendant and the laywer were not present, they
left for Brasil last week to attend ayahuasca ceremonies,
and therefore couldn't make comments about the case. It
is quite likely that the defense will demand the return
of the confiscated 17 liters of ayahuasca and will demand
a compensation for the time the defendant was incarcerated.
Arno Adelaars Amsterdam -The Netherlands.