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Health Canada has given at least a handful of drug law exemptions to Canadian congregations of Brazilian Santo Daime Churches that have demonstrated the importance of Daime tea, also known as ayahuasca tea, to their faith.

This tea contains DMT as well as harmalol and harmaline.

These Canadian congregations have what’s called a “Section 56” exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to import, possess, distribute, and administer those substances.

But it’s not a free for all.

And if you’re looking to devise a new religion or belief system hoping you can get some of that sweet hallucinagenic tea, think again.

Health Canada is clear that they don’t have a specific application process for these sorts of requests. But they did elucidate to me on the particular questions they would seek answers on.

Questions touch upon everything from rationale for use, to administration of the substance, to safekeeping, to destruction, theft or loss of the tea.

Unless your religious practice is a Santo Daime congregation or has an indigenous connection to ayahuasca, it’s unlikely you will receive an exemption.

But regardless, now you know what’s involved!

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Here’s the email from Health Canada:

Good day Harrison Jordan,

Thank you for your emails dated April 18, 2024, about obtaining a subsection 56(1) exemption to use Daime tea (also known as ayahuasca) for religious purposes and the importation process for exemption holders. We will answer both emails here.

The psychoactive ingredients in Daime tea are controlled substances that are scheduled under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), these are: 

  • N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
  • harmalol 
  • harmaline

The CDSA is one of Canada’s federal drug control laws. It provides the framework for the control of drugs and precursor chemicals that can result in harm when misused or diverted to an illegal market.

Health Canada manages exemption requests under the CDSA. An exemption may be granted to allow a controlled substance or precursor to be used for specific scientific or medical purposes, or when it is determined to be in the public interest.

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Under the CDSA, most activities with controlled substances and precursor chemicals are illegal, unless specifically allowed through regulations or an exemption granted by the Minister of Health.

An exemption is a formal document issued to a person or group. It authorizes specific activities with controlled substances or precursor chemicals that would otherwise be illegal. The exemption usually specifies the duration for which it is valid and includes terms and conditions for the types of activities that it authorizes.

There is no formal application form to fill out in order to apply for a subsection 56(1) exemption to use Daime tea for religious purposes. Instead, Health Canada reviews each of these requests on a case-by-case basis. In making a decision, the department considers all relevant information, including:

  • potential benefits 
  • potential risks or harms to the health and safety of Canadians
  • evidence that the controlled substance is necessary for the activity
  • safeguards for the use and storage of the controlled substance to prevent theft or misuse (for example, limitations on who can handle the substance)

We strive to review requests in a timely fashion. For non-routine exemptions, there is no set time period for receiving a decision. The review time varies depending on the complexity and completeness of the request.

To begin the application process for a subsection 56(1) exemption, the following information should be submitted by the person who will be responsible for overseeing the proposed activities (importation, possession, transport and use) with Daime tea.

Rationale and Use of Daime tea

1.                Provide a rationale and/or evidence to support the use of the Daime tea for religious purposes. Describe the purpose or role of Daime tea in the religion. Include affiliations to other churches or mother churches.

2.                Describe how the religion is practiced and describe the ceremonies, rituals or similar where Daime tea is consumed. Provide references to scriptures or any other documents indicating that Daime tea is integral to the practice of the religion.

3.                Provide the name of the organization and background information including confirmation of registration.

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4.                Provide a description of the steps to prepare Daime tea and its use in Ceremonial Sessions.

5.                Provide the name of the person(s) responsible for the Daime tea. Provide the contact information for these individuals (municipal and mailing address, title, email, phone number).

6.                Provide a criminal record check and CV for the person responsible for the Daime tea and any designated members who will be possessing or serving the Daime tea.

7.                Confirm who will be responsible for serving the Daime tea during the sessions. Confirm if the designated members and responsible person will be participating during the sessions.

8.                Confirm when, where and by whom the Daime tea will be consumed. Confirm if the facility where the Daime tea will be consumed is on private property or at a public facility where other individuals may have access.

9.                Confirm who can participate in ceremonies where Daime tea is used. Explain how participants will be screened. Confirm if pregnant women, children or other vulnerable populations will have access to the Daime tea.

10.             Specify how many sessions are expected to be conducted each calendar year. For each concentration of Daime tea, indicate the maximum volume that will be stored at any given time and the quantity that will be used each calendar year. Indicate the quantity of Daime tea consumed by each participant per ceremony, for each type of ceremony.

11.             Specify the number of members that are located in Canada, outside of Canada and within your congregation.

12.             Describe the emergency plan that will be used in case of a medical emergency during a session.

Security, Storage and Record Keeping 

13.             Provide the name and contact information for the supplier of the Daime tea (municipal address and email). Confirm if the Daime tea will be imported. Confirm that the supplier has approval to export Daime tea.

14.             Provide the policies and procedures for storage and consumption of the Daime tea .

15.             Explain how and where the Daime tea will be secured and stored when not in use. Describe the security measures in place at the storage site, attach photos or video of the storage cabinet and secure area.

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16.             Describe the  measures in place to safeguard the Daime tea during the transportation to session, during the session and after the session.

17.             Describe the records that will be maintained with regard to the use of the  Daime tea.

Destruction and Loss or Theft of Daime tea

18.             Provide details on the type of records that will be maintained in the event of theft or loss of Daime tea.

19.             Confirm which Canadian authorities would the theft or loss of Daime tea be reported to.

20.             Describe how the Daime tea is destroyed in the case where it becomes unusable.

This list is not exhaustive, and additional items may be requested during the review of the application.

You have asked how long an exemption typically lasts. Exemptions are issued with a “Period of Validity”, which varies. Near the end of the period of validity, exemption holders have the opportunity to renew the exemption. Renewal requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

You have asked about importation of Daime tea by subsection 56(1) exemption holders. In the list of questions above, you will see that some of them relate to information about the supplier of Daime tea and importation. Generally, the supplier would need to comply with the exportation laws and regulations related to controlled substances of the country of origin. When you and your client are preparing the submission, please include as much detail as possible about your specific importation situation and supplier since all requests for exemptions are reviewed by the Office of Controlled Substances on a case by case basis before rendering a decision. Review and decision timelines are impacted by the completeness, complexity, and clarity of the information provided. 

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at exemption@hc-sc.gc.ca.

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