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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

Drug Control in a Free Society.

Bakalar, James B., and Grinspoon, Lester. (1984).
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

ISBN: 0-521-26572-X

Description: First edition, x + 174 pages.

Contents: Preface, acknowledgments, 5 chapters, bibliography, index.

Excerpt(s): The problem of how a free society should deal with drug use and abuse remains unresolved despite years of bitter dispute and a century of efforts at government control. The modern world seems unable to form a consensus or even a consistent attitude about the subject. We propose to review the peculiar medical, legal, and social status of drugs by examining the formal and informal controls used in modern industrial societies and comparing them with other methods that have been or might be used. From a historical and sociological view, the question is how ambiguous phenomena of drug use have been classified for social purposes; from a moral and practical point of view, the question is how to balance the requirements of health, safety, and social order against the need for individual freedom and diversity of experience when we regulate drugs. (Preface, page vii)

Members of the Native American Church, an Indian group, are allowed to take peyote in their religious rituals . Here federal courts have found a fundamental right of the individual that overrides a state interest in suppressing nonmedical drug use; the guarantee of religious freedom in the First Amendment to the Constitution. In other words, the drug use has to be more than a pleasurable taste or pursuit before the law will allow it. To refute the presumption that nonmedical drug use is negligent, ignorant, and generally worthless, there must be overwhelming evidence that the drug users know what they are doing, consider it important in their lives, and believe seriously in its intrinsic value. But even that is not enough. The courts have made it clear that they will not accept merely individual religious beliefs (much less consciousness expansion) as a justification for drug use, and they have said that they will scrutinize very skeptically the claims of any new organized churches. The drug must be not only religiously important to its user but also an essential part of a traditional rite with a communal significance. So far, the exception made for the Native American Church is unique. It is as though mountain climbing were regarded as generally so dangerous and useless that climbers would be fined and jailed unless they could prove they were making a pilgrimage to a holy site on the peak certified by an established church. (pages 31-32)

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