9 Investigates: Local church offering 'legal' ayahuasca

ORLANDO, Fla. — We’ve learned a local church is once again hosting retreats involving Ayahuasca, even after the Drug Enforcement Administration shut it down last summer.

9 Investigates first told you in July, that ‘Soul Quest Church of the Mother Earth’ did not have the legal exemption needed to serve the hallucinogenic tea, which many cultures consider sacred medicine.

Investigative Reporter Karla Ray went back to the home to find out what’s changed and why the owner says what they’re doing is completely legal now.

“This is not about making money, this is about helping people,” Soul Quest owner Christopher Young said.

Christopher Young collects a church membership fee of $150 per person, and charges another $350 per person, per retreat, to participate in Ayahuasca ‘vine-only’ ceremonies at his church property off Hancock Lone Palm Road in Orlando.

“It’s within the law,” Young said.

Related stories:

9 Investigates reported when the Drug Enforcement Administration ordered the Soul Quest Church of the Mother Earth to shut down its Ayahuasca retreats, because the group didn’t have the required exemption to distribute the traditional Ayahuasca tea, which contains a Schedule 1 hallucinogen called DMT.

Young claims a version of the tea, made from just a vine, doesn’t produce DMT, because it doesn’t contain the ‘chacruna,’ or leaves.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a loophole, I’d say we’re using Ayahuasca ‘vine-only.’  Legally,” Young said.

Young says the doses given out still cleanse the body.  The church property is equipped with several showers and toilets, for the purging and diarrhea prompted by the plant.

“The only thing you're doing is not fully meeting the Mother Ayahuasca, and it takes using the DMT to be able to do that,” Young said.

Cultures around the world call the use of Ayahuasca ‘sacred’ and the experience of a retreat ‘healing.’  It’s commonly sought by people with PTSD or depression.

Even though Young feels a Supreme Court ruling would protect his church, he is still working to obtain an exemption to provide the full-fledged version of Ayahuasca, something only two churches in the country currently have.

“Even though we're not doing anything wrong, we're always worried, but we know we're doing a higher purpose,” Young said.

9 Investigates asked the DEA whether the current retreats are protected, and a spokesperson said it would be impossible to know unless they tested the substance being served in a lab.

Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.