religion and cannabis
religion and cannabis

Growing Cannabis Is A Religious Right According To The Government

Protecting Rights and Religious Beliefs

Posted by:
The Undercover Stoner on Monday Sep 5, 2016

One Nation, Under Who?

Should Growing Cannabis be a Religious Right, Now? from CannabisNet on Vimeo.


American History is rife with tales of religious bigotry and condescending narrow-mindedness.


It was under the weight of tyrannical forced beliefs imposed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England that caused the Mayflower to make berth and breach the banks of Cape Cod in 1620 as a vessel bearing religious refugees.


America was founded upon the idea that religion must exist in a separate habitat than the state.


This ideology was extended beyond inspiring conjecture or popular belief, having its inclusion into the Constitution of The United States of America as The First Amendment.

church and state separation

James Madison, American icon and principal author of The First Amendment, expressed its necessity by poetically stating- “It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.”


To put it far less eloquently than James Madison, the right to carry out your faith in whatever fashion you deem fitting is not only a basic American right, but also an essential human right.


In 1791 the romantic sentiments of James Madison were ratified by Congress and translated into the official jargon that most of us are familiar with today: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”


This bill, so important in conveying the spirit that America was to be founded upon, was placed first in line on the Bill of Rights.


Another similar bill was introduced to the American people some 200 years later. The bill passed unanimously by the U.S House and received only three nays from the Senate. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA, was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993.


In substance, the RFRA prohibits the government from creating restrictions on how you can practice your religion... unless there is compelling interest for that restriction by the government. The Act allows individuals to sue the government if they believe that their religious rights are violated by the government. As the name implies, the RFRA restores our nation's constitutional principles.

rfra law

At first glance the combination of The First Amendment and The Religious Freedom Restoration Act paints a masterpiece of liberty that presents the government in beautiful colors, but how does the RFRA specifically affect us? Are there cases of this bill working towards the good of the people to fulfill our forefathers dreams of an emancipated America?


As it turns out, there are numerous examples in our nation's young history that display this bill in action.


One example is of the religious group Uniao Do Vegetal, (UDV), who combine indigenous Brazilian belief with contemporary Christian teaching. A central tenet of the UDV faith is a belief that hoasca, a tea containing the illegal hallucinogenic drug dimethyltryptamine, DMT, is sacred and that its use connects the members to God.


In 1999 a case was brought before the Supreme Court after Uniao Do Vegetal had over 30 gallons of the powerful hallucinogen hoasca seized after trying to import it from Brazil into Santa Fe, New Mexico for use in the churches religious ceremonies.


During the case, the church filed a lawsuit against the federal government on the grounds that the charges brought against them violated their constitutional rights, citing the RFRA to exempt them from any laws prohibiting the importation and use of hoasca, and was granted a preliminary injunction. At a preliminary hearing to consider the Uniao Do Vegetal’s application for this preliminary injunction, the government admitted that the criminalization of hoasca “substantially burdened” the church’s religious use of the illegal drug. The government tried recovering from this buckling admission by arguing that it had a compelling interest in protecting the health of UDV members and in preventing the recreational, non-religious or improper use and distribution of DMT.


The district court ruled that the government’s interests in protecting health and preventing drug abuse did not supercede the UDV’s religious freedom to use hoasca. The court therefore granted the preliminary injunction to protect UDV members and leaders from prosecution.


No charges were filed against the leader of the church, nor any of its members.


Now before you potheads get all excited and start looking for a church to join, sit tight, there’s more.

weed on table

In 1980 a boat containing 21 pounds of marijuana was discovered by authorities anchored off the coast of Maine.


The boat and its contents belonged to the Ethiopian Zion Coptic church. The church wraps Christian teaching around the idea that cannabis is a gift from God. Walter Wells, Elder Priest of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church of Jamaica describes the use of the drug in their faith: “Herb (marijuana) is a Godly creation from the beginning of the world. It is known as the weed of wisdom, angel's food, the tree of life and even the ‘Wicked Old Ganja Tree’. Its purpose in creation is as a fiery sacrifice to be offered to our Redeemer during obligations.”


After the leader of the group and several of its members faced court, they were all branded as criminals and charged. The leader of the group, James Tranmer, was sentenced to 35 years in prison- all for exercising the right given to him by the fathers of our land.


If you’re at all like me, your blood is at a boiling point right now.


The relevance in this fight against the prohibition goes far beyond recreational use. Its importance even overshadows medical users suffering worldwide because of obvious corruption. It's not even necessarily a religious issue.


Lifting the ban on marijuana represents bringing justice to the betrayal of the very morals that our nation was founded upon. 


The fact is this- as displayed in the above court cases, cannabis will lose every single time because the government has very large, very lucrative and very compelling interests for the continued restriction of marijuana.


As per the the guidelines of the RFRA weed will fail by default. It has to.


We can change this...we have to... “We the People,” right?


Let that simmer for a bit.




James  (as part of our series on called "Through The Eyes Of A Stoner")



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