9 Investigates: DEA orders Orange County church to stop psychedelic tea ceremonies

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - After 9 Investigates exposed an Orange County church offering controversial and questionably legal psychedelic tea ceremonies, the owners of the churchwere recently ordered by the Drug Enforcement Administration to stop retreats.

Eyewitness News reported in July 2016 about Soul Quest Church of the Mother Earth, which provided Ayahuasca retreats. Ayahuasca tea contains a schedule one drug known as DMT.

Church leaders advertised they were within the law to provide Ayahuasca under a Supreme Court ruling, but a letter from the DEA shows they still need approval and regulation before they can continue hosting retreats.

In a message to the Church’s followers and fans on Facebook, Soul Quest owner Chris Young wrote, “It is with a heavy heart that we announce that Soul Quest Ayhuasca Church of Mother Earth Inc., will have to take a temporary break from our sacred Ayahuasca sacrament as of August 4, 2016.  We received a letter from the DEA advising us that we need to petition the DEA for Exemption to use our sacred sacrament Ayahuasca. It is our obligation to all of you to become federally compliant. This untimely break will ultimately be in the best interest of the church and our church family members.”

The centuries-old Amazonian medicine is prohibited in any form in the United States except during approved religious ceremonies.

“The church is not registered to be exempt from the law,” DEA Public Information Officer Anne-Judith Lambert told Eyewitness News.

The DEA requires churches using the drug to file a petition explaining the use, and the agency also regulates how the drug is ordered, stored and used.

The goal is to make sure the substance is being used safely and that religious exemptions aren’t being abused.

Users who experience immediate nausea and diarrhea and could have more severe issues, like heart problems or even overdoses.

WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer expects Soul Quest to be back up and running soon, due to the Supreme Court ruling protecting the ceremonies for other churches.

Young told Eyewitness News he is working with attorneys to resolve this issue with the DEA.  

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