The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the fundamental right to the free exercise of religion. It ensures that individuals and religious organizations can practice their faith without government interference. This protection extends to a wide range of religious practices and rituals, including the use of sacraments or substances integral to religious observance.
The RFRA, enacted in 1993, provides an additional layer of protection for religious practices. It mandates that government actions, even if generally applicable, cannot substantially burden a person's exercise of religion unless there is a compelling governmental interest and the action is the least restrictive means to achieve that interest. The RFRA bolsters First Amendment protections by placing a higher standard on the government's ability to interfere with religious practices.
Many religious and spiritual groups have incorporated psilocybin into their rituals, claiming that it enhances their connection with the divine and aids in spiritual growth and healing. Some of these groups have sought religious exemption from DEA registration requirements to legally use and distribute psilocybin as part of their religious practices.
Saba Cooperative has formally requested religious exemption from DEA registration requirements, as our training is rooted in spiritual ecology and interfaith religious practices. We encourage and support students in finding their unique mystical approach to connecting with the divine. We are also a denominational organization, focusing also in the specific teachings of Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist traditions. We have been in communication with DEA headquarters and offices in Tennessee, Oregon, and New York, actively seeking recognition of religious exemption status.
Saba Cooperative and other organizations like it are navigating the complex legal landscape surrounding the use of psilocybin within a religious or spiritual context. Their efforts to secure religious exemption are supported by the First Amendment and RFRA protections, which acknowledge the importance of safeguarding religious freedom. As Saba Cooperative continues its dialogue with DEA authorities, we hope to receive confirmation of religious exemption status by the beginning of 2024, marking a significant step forward in the recognition of entheogenic practices within a religious framework.
In November 2020, Oregon became the first state in the United States to legalize psilocybin through Measure 109. The measure was approved by 56% of voters and allows for the legal use of psilocybin, the active ingredient in "magic mushrooms," in a licensed and regulated setting.
Measure 109 established regulations for facilitated psilocybin sessions in the state. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) will oversee these regulations, which will include requirements for training programs, licensing of facilitators, licensed service centers, and licensed manufacturers.
One of the key aspects of the measure is the requirement for specialized training for facilitators who will administer psilocybin. These training programs are designed to provide facilitators with the necessary knowledge and skills to safely and effectively guide patients through the experience. The training programs are also be required to address issues related to cultural equity and working with diverse populations.
Under Measure 109, psilocybin sessions will only be available in licensed service centers, which will be subject to strict regulations regarding safety, security, and patient care. These centers will also be required to have staff who are responsible for overseeing all aspects of patient care and ensuring compliance with state regulations.
In addition, licensed manufacturers will be responsible for producing and distributing psilocybin products to licensed service centers, following strict regulations for quality control and safety.
The measure was motivated by the growing body of research showing the potential effectiveness of psilocybin for treating a range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction. Supporters of the measure argued that psilocybin offers a safe and effective alternative to traditional treatments, which can be expensive and have a range of negative side effects.