Across North America, users of sacramental cannabis are standing up in court for their belief in the holy herb, and it’s only a matter of time before courts will have no choice but to recognize that ? for some ? cannabis is the Tree of Life. Court prosecutors know it, and have been stalling some religious pot cases for over a decade.
In Canada, Ontario’s Church of the Universe has been arguing their case of religious freedoms in various courts and cases since 1989 (CC#09, The Canadian inquisition). Reverends Walter Tucker and Michael Baldasaro, the church’s high counsel, now have a constitutional challenge before Canada’s federal court, asking for the persecution of their church to end (CC#30, Busted up dates). This most recent challenge was filed in 1998, but as of yet, they don’t even have a court date. On October 22, 2001 they filed a motion asking the crown to speed up the proceedings.
“The crown tried to have it thrown out three times, as frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the court process,” said Reverend Tucker. “If the court finds that the crown has been stalling too long, the people who have been claiming this religious right can now claim damages. What the court has said is that now it is a fact that marijuana is a medicine, there is a very good chance that it could be a sacrament.”
A 1999 RCMP surveillance report shows that even the cops think the case against the Church of the Universe is a huge waste of time. “Although the investigator believes there could be sufficient evidence to charge the two suspects,” reads the report, “he doesn’t believe it to be in the best interest of the public to do so. It would obviously cost a lot of taxpayers money and have no deterrent effect on the two subjects? besides, we have much more urgent investigations?to attend to.”
Regardless of a few level heads among the RCMP, the persecution of church members continues. On September 20, Reverend G, Reverend Sheldon, and a friend were holding a church service outside of a Church of the Universe mission and hemp/tattoo shop called Sacred Earth, in Barrie, Ontario. Police approached them and charged them all with possession. Since then, the mission has suffered continual harassment.
“Every night police come by and peek in the windows, stand in the flower beds and trespass in the backyard,” said Reverend G. “It’s quite the intimidation tactic they have going on here. A lot of local people know that I’m a reverend and have come forward to report the same harassment by police. There is one guy who is looking to have charges dropped for a medical reason, and the police are following him around and threatening him.”
Similarly, Reverend Ethier of the Church of the Universe spent much of 2000 behind bars for sending cannabis medicine to the church’s high counsel for distribution to the sick (CC#34, Busted up dates).
“I was in the Don Jail, which is one of the worst provincial institutions in Ontario. There I saw crack cocaine, heroin, pills, even tailor-made cigarettes. I saw some weed there too. Some cell blocks don’t have proper plumbing, the food’s always cold, sometimes there’s not enough food for everybody. People sometimes have to sleep on a mattress on the floor because there’s not enough beds. You’re worse than a dog.”
Although police continue to attack the church, Reverend Tucker reports that the courts have affirmed church members’ “right to protection in the lower courts until the decision is made in the federal court.” Reverend Tucker’s son, Walter Junior, has had success with staying his charges.
“Church members have to download our federal challenge from our website and show it to the judge,” said Reverend Baldasaro. “If people go into court with it, they will get a response, because the judge will realize that he has lost his jurisdiction, because the higher court is still deciding the matter.”
? Church of the Universe: tel 905-515-3151; email [email protected]; web www.iamm.com
? Church of the Universe Federal Court Challenge: www.iamm.com/cases/case-index.html
? Sacred Earth: 31 Ross St Barrie Ont L4n 1e8; tel 705-725-9645; [email protected]
? Reverend Ethier: tel 705-753-4756