Military clears cactus drug

THE GOOD news is that the US military has struck a blow for religious tolerance, allowing its servicemen and women to practise a traditional native American religion.

The bad news is that this involves taking peyote, which comes from a cactus and causes powerful hallucinations in users.

The Washington Post reported the agreement yesterday, in all seriousness noting that soldiers with responsibility for nuclear weapons would not be allowed to participate in ceremonies.

Agreement on letting the services turn on was reached two years ago, but apparently the spoilsports at Strategic Air Command had reservations. Something about "acid flashbacks" and the risk of Armageddon. Footling stuff, really.

The US military, traditionally a bastion of conservative values, has gone slightly overboard in its efforts to welcome allcomers over the past few years. Christians have been stunned to discover that not only adherents of Wicca, or witchcraft, but Satanists have been permitted to practise their religions on US bases.

Peyote comes from a cactus that grows wild in south-westAmerica, and has been used in religious ceremonies by some Indians for centuries.

Peyotists of many tribes founded the Native American Church in 1918, where peyote is honoured as a sacramental food. The Navaho Tribal Council banned its use in 1940, but the cult flourished covertly until the council relented in 1967. Up to 80 per cent of Navahos in the South-west are practising members of the church and peyote is legal in some states.