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Ruling allows non-Indians to use peyote in Utah

In a unanimous decision, the Utah Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that members of a Native American Church can use peyote even if they are not Indian.

Police raided the Oklevueha Earth Walks Native American Church and seized 13,000 buttons of peyote, a hallucinogenic drug, from the home of James "Flaming Eagle" Mooney, who claims he is a medicine man. Mooney was charged with violating state law because he is not a member of a federally-recognized tribe.

But the court said state law, which incorporates a federal exception for peyote use by federally-recognized tribal members, cannot be used to prevent Mooney and his group from the drug. "The term 'members' in the exemption clearly refers to members of the 'Native American Church' � not to members of federally recognized tribes," the court concluded.

However, the ruling is limited to members of "bona fide" Native American Church groups. It is possible that the state could still claim Mooney's church is not valid.

Get the Story:
Church's peyote use OK'd (The Deseret News 6/23)
Justices uphold religious peyote use (The Salt Lake Tribune 6/23)

Get the Decision:
State of Utah v. Mooney (June 22, 2004)

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