Newshawks – January 25

A former White House drug official is in the River City to discuss the new hazards of marijuana.
Could cannabis be used legally if it’s done for a religious purpose? Illinois Central College Student Joe Johnson’s new ministry is testing the law.
Thanks to newshawk Rich Rawlings
Newshawk: Richard J. Rawlings

Top Official Warns Of Marijuana Hazards
Posted January 25, 2005 1:25pm

A former White House drug official is in the River City to discuss the new hazards of marijuana.

Doctor Andrea Barthwell talked with community members Tuesday morning at the White Oaks Center in Peoria.

The drug abuse expert talked about the misconceptions of marijuana use.

Barthwell is calling on Illinois lawmakers to prevent legalizing the drug.

Barthwell said, ”Parents tend to think about marijuana the way they did a generation ago when they maybe were experimenting with it. They were starting at a later age. They were using a much lower potency product than we have today and the two issues of early initiation and higher potency marijuana are converging to make this problem bigger.”

And Barthwell says more young people are in treatment for marijuana dependency than for alcohol or for all other illegal drugs combined.


A Legal Test
Posted January 25, 2005 5:34pm

Could cannabis be used legally if it’s done for a religious purpose? One Illinois Central College Student’s new ministry is testing the law.

20-year-old Joe Johnson says his path to practice his religion and find God is to use cannabis.

Johnson said, ”Through the use of it, I found out it was very profound and allows you to experience things otherwise you wouldn’t experience, like ultra-states of consciousness through meditation.”

Johnson says he just became a reverend with a church associated with The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry or THC. His church currently has two members but is open to anyone from any religion.

He says it’s not open to those looking for a reason to use the drug for recreation and not religion.

”I find that very offensive. That’s like saying Catholics use wine to go get drunk,” said Johnson.

Johnson says cannabis use is legal under the Illinois Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act even though neither document specifically says that.

East Peoria Police Chief Ed Papis said, ”If he practices indulging in marijuana or any illegal drugs, he’ll be arrested and so will his parishioners.”

Johnson is awaiting a court date in Tazewell County for possession of marijuana after being pulled over for speeding.

He’ll find out if his religion defense will work. Prosecutors, like police, say it won’t.

Besides dealing with law enforcement, Reverend Joe could also be heading for problems with Illinois Central College and WoodView Commons Apartments where he lives.

John Avendano, ICC Vice President of Student Development, said, ”We’re respectful of all the religious rights of all of our students. We try to help them in anyway except when it crosses the line. This is something that does cross the line.”

Avendano says the lease Johnson signed states if he’s caught with cannabis that he’ll be evicted but it doesn’t mean he’ll be kicked out of school.

Johnson says his congregation is looking for a vacant church besides his campus apartment to hold services and administer the sacrament cannabis.

The Church of Khidr