Reverend Mike Ethier of the Church of the Universe contacted Cannabis Culture from his jail cell in Ontario to talk about his arrest (see CC#27, Reverends jailed for med-pot mailing). He was charged last June with seven marijuana-related offenses in connection with distributing medical marijuana, and sending donations of sacramental marijuana to the church’s high council.
“I went for a bail review today and the judge dismissed it on the grounds of my religious beliefs,” said Ethier last July.
Judge Mike Bolan’s ruling is landmark in its open acknowledgement of Ethier’s religion and subsequent flouting of constitutional religious freedoms, which should have guaranteed Ethier’s release.
“I had a nice job before I came here, making twenty dollars an hour, but I can be sure I lost that by now,” Ethier said. “My lawyer has filed an appeal [of the denial of bail]. It will take three to four weeks to hear the case in Toronto.”
Reverend Ethier has languished in jail since June 27, and as of September he still awaits his day in court.
Ethier’s arrest occurred in connection with an investigation against Reverends Walter Tucker and Michael Baldasaro, conducted by Health Minister Alan Rock after the two sent him medical marijuana samples earlier this year as part of their application to grow for the governmnent’s upcoming trials.
The high reverends speculate that the rash of arrests against them are an attempt to divert their energies from a constitutional challenge that they have launched in Canada’s Supreme Court for the freedom of religion to use cannabis as a sacrament (see CC#27, Sacramental cannabis sects).
On August 28, the Supreme Court heard a motion from the crown prosecutor asking to have the case thrown out. “It’s just like the last two times they tried to throw it out,” said Brother Baldasaro. “It’s bullshit.” Apparently the judge agreed with Baldasaro, ruling that the case would continue. The judge also advised Reverends Tucker and Baldasaro that their thirteen co-plaintiffs (other church members who joined the challenge) must resign themselves from the case, which otherwise would be too unwieldy to continue through the courts. When the case continues, Tucker and Baldasaro will ask that church members be released from jail and remain free from prosecution until after the constitutional challenge has been heard. A court date will be set at that time.
? The Honourable Allan Rock, Minister of Health, 21st Floor, Jeanne-Mance Building, Tunney’s Pasture, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0K9