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U.S. Attorney drops peyote charges against couple

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in a religious freedom case, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah has dropped federal charges filed against a couple accused of possession and distribution of peyote.

James "Flaming Eagle" Mooney and his wife Linda started their own Native American Church. Although neither belongs to a federally recognized tribe, they say they have the right to use peyote, a hallucinogenic plant.

Federal prosecutors countered that peyote use is restricted to members of federally recognized tribes. But in a related case, the Supreme Court shot down that line of thinking in an 8-0 decision on Tuesday that contained potentially hostile language about the trust relationship.

The Mooneys reached a deal last week, before the decision was announced, with the U.S. Attorney's Office not to acquire, use or distribute peyote until there is clarification about their legal status. The office said the agreement had nothing to do with the ruling but Mooney said it had everything to do with it. He said the decision was "crystal clear" with respect to his rights.

The state of Utah is considering a bill to limit peyote use to recognized tribal members.

Get the Story:
Peyote charges dropped (The Deseret Morning News 2/23)
Couple agree to end peyote use if feds drop drug charges (The Salt Lake Tribune 2/23)
Charges dropped vs. couple in peyote case (AP 2/22)

Supreme Court Decision:
Gonzales v. UDV (February 21, 2006)

Utah Peyote Bill:
Controlled Substance Amendments (HB 60)

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