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Legal Status of Ayahuasca Herbs on the Line in the US
- Center for Cognitive Liberty

Alan Shoemaker (Ayahuasca) Legal Defense Fund


A case which pits the US government against the vine and leaves used to make ayahuasca, the South American visionary tea used for physical, emotional and spiritual healing, is nearing the trial phase and funds are urgently needed for the defense.

The case has potential ramifications not only on other ayahuasca cases, but on the rights of all individuals to worship in the privacy of their homes as they see fit.

At issue is the prosecution of Alan Shoemaker, an US ex-pat who, until last April 1, has been living in the jungle city of Iquitos, Peru since 1993. During the past 10 years Shoemaker has been a student of the sacred medicine, ayahuasca, and during the past five he’s been working with a plant-based diabetes II medicine as well. He is married to a Peruvian woman, and the father of two children with her.

In 1998, Shoemaker’s wife, Mariella Noriega, started Chinchilejo (Dragonfly) a plant material export business. Among the plants she exported were Banisteriopsis caapi (ayahuasca vine) and Diplopterys cabrerana (huambisa leaves), the vine and one of the typical leaves used to make ayahuasca.

Mariella was not the first nor only Peruvian export firm to deal with these plants, but on January 29, 2001, her company, Chinchilejo, became the only Peruvian export company to ever have a shipment of these plants seized.

The DEA followed the shipment from its point of entry to it’s delivery to Shoemaker’s adult son, Jesse Brock, who was starting a plant material wholesale business in the states. The plants, 200 Kilos of ayahuasca vine and 100 kilos of huambisa leaves, were seized on the grounds that the leaves contained traces of DMT.

The seizure was extremely unusual as the plants were legal to export from Peru and had never been declared illegal here in the US. The shipment had been exported with all the necessary Peruvian and international paperwork completed.

No arrests were made at the time, but on April 1, 2002, when Alan Shoemaker flew from Iquitos to Miami to see his dying mother, he was picked up at Miami International Airport and told a sealed indictment had been handed down on January 24, 2002, charging him with possession with intent to distribute a Schedule 1 substance, DMT.

The charge carries 20 years in federal prison.

His son Jesse, immediately turned himself into authorities in Atlanta.

Alan Shoemaker was held in prison for 59 days and released on a $50,000 cash bond with the stipulation that he wear an ankle bracelet and remain at his late mother’s home in Tennessee until the case is concluded. He cannot bring his wife and children to the states for fear that she will be arrested as well.

Legal motions seeking a dismissal of the charges are being filed by Shoemaker’s attorney Mark Sallee in January. Failing a dismissal, Sallee, from Atlanta, suggests that a trial may begin as early April.

Though Sallee has donated his services, he anticipates a number of sizeable expenses, from filing the motions to bringing in expert witnesses for the defense should they be needed. Alan Shoemaker used all of his resources to pay his bond. Mark Sallee cannot be asked to contribute any more than he is already contributing.

It is vital that the community contribute to this defense. If the government is permitted to selectively prosecute Shoemaker for legal plants shipped into the US it will send a signal to Attorney General John Ashcroft that he will be given a green light by the public in other similarly indefensible cases.

Donations to the Alan Shoemaker Ayahuasca Defense Fund are tax-deductible and all proceeds will go to his defense.

To send funds, please send a check or money order to:

Alan Shoemaker Ayahuasca Defense Fund
Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics
PO Box 73481
Davis, CA 95617-3481

Your contribution will help ensure all of our freedoms.

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