Canada: court strikes down religious freedom defense

Posted on February 8th, 2011 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

CanadaOntario Superior Court Justice Thea Herman ruled Feb. 7 that the Church of the Universe, which uses cannabis as a sacrament, is not exempt from Canada's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, rejecting religious freedom arguments from two church members accused of trafficking.

In her 66-page judgment, Herman agreed that laws against possession—though not trafficking—limited the defendants' freedom of religion, but nonetheless dismissed their motion. "The applicants have established that their use of cannabis was, at least in part, related to a sincerely held religious belief," Herman said. But she also found that the laws controlling the cannabis use meet a "pressing and substantive" goal: "The avoidance of harm to Canadians, in particular, the avoidance of harm to vulnerable individuals." Prosecutors for the Crown argued that the Church of the Universe is a "sham" and a "joke," a parody of religion designed to legitimize illegal behavior.

Peter Styrsky, who was charged with trafficking along with fellow church member Shahrooz Kharaghani in 2006, said he is considering an appeal. "I think the judge said that we do have the right to use it," said Styrsky. "She just didn't know how to implement it for us." Rev. Brother Davin Christensen insisted the church's practice and belief remain the same. "It changes nothing. They raided one church," said as he lit a vaporizer at Vapor Central lounge on Toronto's Yonge St. (Winnipeg Free Press, Toronto Star, Feb. 8)

Photo by PhotoPhreak


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