PROVO, Utah (AP) — A drug charge against a Provo man accused of distributing peyote to non-Indians has been dismissed in the wake of a Utah Supreme Court ruling that use of peyote in religious ceremonies cannot be limited to Indians.
“I’m glad it’s over and I’m glad the charge was dismissed,” David Hamblin, 49, said after the charge against him was dismissed Thursday. “But I think there could have been more courtesy in how things were handled. “
Hamblin was charged in 2000 with one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
Federal law allows tribal Indians and members of the Native American Church to use peyote in religious ceremonies.
Hamblin and others, including Spanish Fork medicine man James Warren “Flaming Eagle” Mooney of the Utah County-based Oklevueha Earthwalks Native American Church, were accused of using peyote in ceremonies at which non-Indians were present.
The Utah Supreme Court ruled unanimously on June 22 in a case involving Mooney and his wife that the church has the right to define its own membership, Indian or not.
“The main thing is we’re very pleased with the decision of the Utah Supreme Court,” Hamblin said. “We’re really grateful to them and we believe the ruling was exactly defining the law as it has always been defined and should be defined.”
Hamblin and Mooney feel they now can practice their religion in peace.
“We can go back to worshipping as we please and assisting people to come closer to God,” Hamblin said. “That’s all we want.”