Graphic via Soul Quest Facebook page
Graphic via Soul Quest Facebook page
Graphic via Soul Quest Facebook page

For the past few weeks, a local branch of the Oklevueha Native American Church  has been holding regular three-day retreats in the middle of the Mills 50 District. The retreats allow attendees to sample from a menu of psychotropic drugs like ayahuasca, cannabis, and frog secretions, to be used under the guidance of church officials.

The local branch, Soul Quest (Facebook Website), is led by Chris Young, a native Orlandoan who returned from abroad to preach the gospel of ayahuasca to his hometown because, as he puts it, “the medicine told me to.”

Young spoke to us over the phone, and told us how he chose to start an independent branch of the Oklevueha Church (Website) because of the protection it offers to its members. According to Young, the church is federally protected (namely by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) and members are able to consume otherwise illegal substances because it is part of their religious practice. The church sees all “earth-based medicines” as holy sacraments and sometimes even as conscious beings. In fact, the very first paragraph on Soul Quest’s website states:


Those hoping to join the church can do so via a third-party website, HERE, for a one-time $30 membership fee and can ask for a photo ID that identifies them as a card-carrying member of the Native American Church. Members of the church pay a $20 a month donation which gives them access to things like sahanga (a liquid that is dropped into the eye and derived from plants) and RAPÊ (snuff). Members are then allowed to partake in heavier drugs like kambo (frog secretions) or ayahuasca/DMT if they pay an up-charge, around $100-$150 a session. Members can also requst 30 ML micro-doses of ayahuasca to take with them between retreats, to keep “the spirit in you” and, according to Young, aid in lucid dreaming. Young described the donations as more of a religious tithing, and told us that the bulk of those funds are deposited into an account to pay for legal fees if any members are ever prosecuted.

We spoke with a number of lawyers and law enforcement officials about the legality of using psychotropics and all of them declined to comment. The OPD was unfamiliar with ayahuasca/DMT but promised to research the matter and get back to us. We will post that information as soon as we have it. The Orlando branch of the DEA was reluctant to comment as well but did state that they were unaware of any previous cases in the Orlando area where members of a religious organization had been persecuted for drug use associated with their religious practices. They had however heard of cases in other states where people had been arrested upon leaving a place of worship where they had been using drugs as a religious tool, and then tried to leave with some in their possession.

Yet  during our brief talk with Young he was adamant that anyone who interrupted a retreat could face a five-year prison sentence for impeding a religious ceremony and the right of church members to practice their religion. Again, we couldn’t get anyone in law enforcement to confirm that claim.

The Native American Church was founded in 1918 in Oklahoma as a way for Native peoples to practice their culture and traditions in a way that was structured like Christian churches. This made it easier for them to use medicines like peyote without any restrictions. A number of appeals by Native churches throughout the country in the ’60s were supported and upheld in numerous state courts.

The Native American Church now has over half a million members in 24 states. According to an article by the NY Times, even if you’re a card carrying church member, you can’t officially be a member of the church unless you’re a member of a recognized tribe but then contradicted themselves by quoting Utah Supreme Court Justice Jill N. Parrish as saying, “on its surface, existing federal regulation, does not restrict the exemption to members of federally recognized tribes.” You can read the NY Times article, HERE.

Soul Quest is hosting a “Full Moon Ayahuasca Ceremony,” (Facebook event page HERE) at the end of the month at the Mills 50 arts/events space True Serenity (Facebook | Website), but there are only 15 spots available at a time and they fill up quickly. There are three more events scheduled through the month of September.



Brendan O'Connor

Editor in Chief of

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  1. Meeting in Washington D.C. on Protecting ONAC Members

    Here is the press release for your enjoyment. with Federal Legal Expert

    PRESS RELEASE – 5/18/2015

    Oklevueha NAC Leaders Pow-Wow with Federal Legal Expert

    In a broad ranging discussion, two American Native spiritual leaders reaffirmed the standing and respect leaders of the Federal Government hold for the Oklevueha Native American Church (ONAC) and her branches. The legal protections that members of ONAC have under the US Constitution, the Freedom of Religion (1st Amendment), the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person’s Act (RLUIPA) were discussed and clarified.

    Attorney Charles W. Galbraith (of the prestigious Kilpatrick Townsend law firm) was the White House Associate Director of Inter-Governmental Affairs and Public Engagement. He was instrumental in drafting the policies that confirm that the Federal Government respects the sovereignty of Native American Tribes and their ability to choose if they want to grow and sell cannabis and other plants on the reservations.

    Galbraith emphatically declared that, by law, government agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) the US Forestry Service and the Department of the Interior have no legal right or authority to mandate or restrict what is sacred land or what is or is not a sacrament (called medicine by many tribes).
    These sacraments (such as peyote, cannabis, san pedro, ayahuasca and many others) can be possessed and used by members in good standing of Native American Churches that meet the government defined requirements. At this time, the only large or broad based group that has been noted as meeting those requirements is Oklevueha NAC. These religious rights have been confirmed by a number of state, district and federal court cases including those brought before the Utah Supreme Court, US 9th Circuit Court, US 10th Appeals Court and the US Supreme Court.
    Galbraith also stated that the government is bound by a standard known as the governmental compelling interest standard to not interfere with the religious lands, ceremonies or sacraments chosen by the individual branches of ONAC unless those items threaten the safety or rights of the members and others. Even if they find a cause of action, they are compelled to use the “least restrictive” way to further that compelling interest. This is further clarified by RLUIPA with mandates requiring that the courts exercise “strict scrutiny” of any proposed “substantial burden” upon religious freedoms before taking any action.

    Also attending were James Mooney, co-founder and senior medicine person of Oklevueha NAC and Chris White, medicine person and leader of the ONAC of Virginia branch and one of the ONAC Council of Elders.

    Mr. White asked what should be done when local law enforcement personnel arrest, detain and seize assets of members and leaders of ONAC in violation of these protections. Galbraith responded, “Co-operate and the Federal Government will take swift action to protect ONAC under the afore-mentioned legislation and 9th Circuit Court Case Law.

    Clarifications were sought and received concerning ONAC member’s Civil Liberties and governmental views of the legitimacy of ONAC, Native American Ceremonies, Sacred Land protection and use and the relationship between Federally recognized Tribes in regard to Cannabis and other sacraments. Interstate commerce and transportation of sacraments and spiritual symbols are protected under RLUIPA.

    Also discussed was the importance of these healing and empowering sacraments and ceremonies being made available to all people through the branches of ONAC. Mr. Mooney stated “I believe that Native American ceremonies are crucial to saving the country.” Mr. Galbraith responded with a hearty, “So do I!”

    You can read more about ONAC and their spiritual work at

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