DENVER, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- A federal court in Denver ruled for a third time the government must return a cache of hallucinogenic tea to a Brazilian religious sect in New Mexico.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 8-5 Friday for O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal, or UDV, a church that has been fighting a legal battle to have the government return 30 gallons of "ayahuasca," a hallucinogenic tea used for religious purposes that was confiscated by the U.S. Customs Service in 1999, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
"This case is unique in many respects because it involves a clash between two federal statutes, one based in the First Amendment to the Constitution and protecting an individual's free exercise of religion and the other serving the important governmental and public interests of protecting society against the importation and sale of illegal drugs," wrote 10th Circuit Judge Stephanie Seymour in one of the majority opinions.
The government must now seek the permission of the regional solicitor if it wishes to pursue an appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court.