Church Fighting DEA Over Ayahuasca And IRS Gets Help From Long-Serving, Anti-Drug GOP Senator

If a lawmaker has a generally harsh anti-drug policy and is specifically opposed to legalizing recreational cannabis, yet supports the benefits of medical marijuana, it might not come as any surprise that he or she would come out in favor of, well, ayahuasca use as part of religious service.

Chuck Grassley, Republican Senator from Iowa since 1981, has been trying to help a church in his constituency that is seeking to include ayahuasca in its religious ceremonies, reported Marijuana Moment.

What happened 

The Iowaska Church of Healing has been attempting to gain a religious exemption from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which treats ayahuasca - a psychedelic brew - as illegal. The church is also petitioning for tax-exempt status, which has been denied by the IRS. 

According to court filings from September, Senator Grassley, 88, has been helping the church in its effort to obtain the exemptions. 

In 2019, the Iowaska Church of Healing sent a petition to the DEA asking for an exemption under the CSA in connection to its ceremonial use of ayahuasca.

“Plaintiff has received no substantive response from the DEA with respect to the application despite repeated requests for a reply, including a follow up inquiry by United States Senator Charles Grassley’s office,” the complaint reads.

Not Necessarily Backing The Issue, But Still...

Grassley's helping hand should not be viewed as support for the issue, a spokesperson told Marijuana Moment.

“Regardless of whether Senator Grassley supports or agrees with a particular request or policy outcome, he believes that Iowans have every right to petition their government, and the government ought to be responsive,” said Taylor Foy, communications director for the senator. “Sen. Grassley reads his mail and he’s always happy to help facilitate dialog between Iowans and the bureaucracy in Washington.”

The IRS refused to comment when local outlet KCCI-TV inquired.

Bill Boatwright, an attorney representing Iowaska pointed out that Grassley’s participation in the church’s demand does not necessarily indicate the senator’s backing of psychedelics in a religious context. 

“Senator Grassley’s office took no position on the merits of the IRS or DEA applications, and only attempted to expedite both agencies’ review of them,” Boatwright said. “His office was not provided with either of the applications for review.”

Even so, one should not underestimate the importance of Grassley’s involvement in the case, particularly in view of his anti-drug reputation and his 41 years in the US Senate.  

Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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