Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pot Smokers Seek Canadian Government Recognition of Their "Church"


If approved, this is how a pot-smokers' "church" service may look like
Graphics (Toronto: August 6, 2010) © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

If you want to smoke pot or weed (cannabis, marijuana, ganja, bhang, charas or hashish, or whatever name they come in) unfettered, join the Church of the Universe. That's what two members of this Church are trying to say by challenging the Canadian government over their religious rights granted in the Charter of Rights.

The 24-Hours reports, in 2006, two pot smokers -- Peter Styrsky (53) and Shahrooz Kharaghani (31), both minister-members of the Beaches Mission of God-Assembly under the Church of the Universe in Toronto -- were charged for selling marijuana to two undercover policemen. Through their lawyer Paul Lewin, they are asking the court to grant them an exemption from Canada's existing marijuana laws because their religious rights are granted in the Canadian Charter of Rights. They claim that the present marijuana laws infringe upon their religious rights of freely able to buy, sell and smoke pots which is part of their religion. According to their claim, this Church has 2,000 members. Two German Shepherd dogs also have memberships in this Church.

Mr. Lewin told the court, "They [his two clients] do find God through cannabis. Canada has a long history of religious tolerance." He also listed the Church's good works, among whom are holding of Sunday services (worship) and donating hemp (fibre derived from cannabis plants) clothes and food to needy people.

These accused claim that the weed is the holy sacrament of this Church and it is the "tree of life." The weed also allows its members to effectively connect to God. Members of this Church call each other "Brother."

Prosecuting government lawyers -- Nicholas Devlin and Donna Polgar -- in their arguments said that the pot smokers' claim of being a being a religion is not a religion, their Church in not a Church. These two lawyers wrote in their court submission: " It cheapens and demeans freedom of religion to extend the right, enshrined to shield those who have suffered many of the most vicious acts of intolerance and oppression throughout history, to lifestyle choices, when even (they) don't take seriously," reports the Toronto Sun. They also questioned this Church's theology and worship practices.

The government lawyers described Mr. Styrsky, a former Roman Catholic, as "an intelligent man who found a way to transform his affinity for marijuana into a booming business that could cure his financial woes and end his work-time tedium."

Mr. Devlin told the court that if those two pot-smokers are granted Charter Rights, "the very next day anyone could light up a marijuana cigarette on the courthouse steps and say it's for religious use." He also reminded the court that if their rights of free pot use are granted, this will prompt many others to found similar so-called churches.

Still the hearing in the court is going on.

Pot Smoking Linked to Religion

In the history we can see use of drugs in different religions. For centuries, cannabis sativa (also called, hemp, ganja or bhang) is being used as a narcotic in India. Only government-approved shops can sell bhang. These drugs are used in the worship of Lord Shiva. That's why one can see many Hindu sadhus (ascetics or holy men) using these smokes in their akharas (dens). In the name of Christian religion, some people are using pots, too.

Risks from Pot Smoking

Experts say that heavy pot smoking makes people less likely to succeed in academic studies and different professions. Smokers also face heightened health risks like respiratory diseases and cognitive impairment.

In spite of all this, marijuana use is on the increase among younger Canadians. An increasing number of people are out there growing marijuana illegally in their own home basements and other properties. It's a big business now. Bookmark and Share