A Polish couple is sentenced to eight years in prison for hosting ayahuasca ceremonies at their home in the Czech Republic
The psychedelic renaissance is responsible for easing regulations on psychedelic plants in some parts of the world, but in the Czech Republic the ceremonial use of ayahuasca is still being prosecuted as a high crime. Last week, a Polish couple was sentenced to 8 years in prison for running private ayahuasca ceremonies at their home in the Czech Republic.
The couple, Jaroslav and Karolína Kordys, were originally arrested in October 2020. They were taken into custody at their house in Heřmanice near Oder, where they were holding shamanic ceremonies. Since that time they have been facing charges of illegal production and handling of narcotic and psychotropic substances.
According to the indictment, from 2015 to October last year, the trio imported large quantities of ayahuasca from Peru to the Czech Republic. Ayahuasca contains the hallucinogenic substance DMT, which is banned in the Czech Republic. Over a period of five years, the couple reportedly collected over ten million Czech koruna (USD $400,000) from clients participating in their ceremonies.
The court also confirmed a suspended sentence for the third defendant, Petr Kanawka, who participated in the importation of ayahuasca.
An Extremely Harsh Penalty
Czech Senate President Vladimír Hendrych supported the unusually harsh punishment for the couple. “The suggested sentence in this case is set at 8 to 12 years,” says Hendych. “In the case of Mr. Kordys, we made a small correction… In our opinion, both committed the same act as accomplices. There is not a single reason for any of them to be favoured.”
He added that there are no conditions for imposing a sentence below the lower limit of the suggested sentence. He pointed to the long-term criminal activities and the number of clients attending ceremonies. Both defendants were sent to a minimum security prison and the seizure of their property was waived.
Czech anti-drug coordinator Jindřich Vobořil says he believes it is a mistake to include DMT among illegal drugs. “When witches were burned in the Middle Ages, people also believed that it was fair. A media image has been created here about certain substances, and whoever touches them is like a mass murderer. But it’s not like that,” Vobořil said.
Many experts believe that the sentence is unduly harsh. Viktor Mravčík, adviser to the national anti-drug coordinator, said, “For me, the Kordys are political prisoners of the drug war, whose case shows the perversion of the prohibition regime taken to the extreme.”
Experts argue that psychedelics have minimal health and social harm compared to, for example, alcohol, tobacco or heroin, and their addictive potential is practically zero.
“Furthermore, it is clear that if [psychedelics] are used and taken correctly, they have demonstrable therapeutic efficacy and enormous therapeutic potential for a whole range of psychiatric diseases,” Mravčík added.
The Kordys’ deny any criminal activity and claim they are innocent. According to their testimony, the ceremonial participants drank an ayahuasca brew without DMT, made only with the yagé vine (Banisteriopsis caapi). As the shaman of the ceremony, Jaroslav drank ayahuasca with DMT, but he claims he did not administer the prohibited substance to the participants.
“We cannot agree with the verdict in any case and we are ready to continue fighting,” responded the Kordys’ lawyer Wieslaw Firla. He added that they are ready to appeal to the Supreme Court. “Jaroslav believes that he and Karolina will get justice sooner or later and thanks everyone for their support.”