NORML Responds to Religious Cannabis Users: Ending Prohibition Protects ALL of Us

Thank you Chris Bennett for your enlightening article rebutting NORML’s articles regarding religious use of cannabis arguments in court and the case of Roger Christie.  You bring up some aspects to the history of religious use and religious use cases that deserve serious consideration.  However, we will stand by our writing because we believe you, and others so deeply and sincerely wedded to your religious use arguments, continue to miss our points: Religious use arguments are not likely to work in court and selling a card that guarantees those arguments will work is a fraud on cannabis consumers.

No reasonable person wants to see Roger Christie being held in jail without bond pending trial on these non-violent marijuana charges.  None of us want to see him imprisoned for his religious use of marijuana.  This debate is about the current state of the law regarding the religious use of marijuana in this country and the best strategy to legalize the religious use of marijuana.  It is not a debate about the legitimacy of anyone’s religious beliefs and to make it so misses the opportunity to discuss how we all best spend our time and money bringing an end to marijuana prohibition so we may all enjoy our human rights to cannabis.

NORML always has and always will support any person’s right to use marijuana for whatever reason they see fit.  God told you to toke?  Great.  Your doctor recommended you toke?  Right on.  There’s a Pink Floyd laser light show tonight?  Fantastic.  NORML doesn’t think you need the permission of a court, king, clinician, or cleric to use cannabis.

But courts and law enforcement don’t agree with NORML. The point we’re making is that if you want to exert your religious right to use cannabis, you’re likely to be praying behind bars sometime soon.  Not that you should be arrested, not that the courts should find against you, but that they likely will and you should be prepared for that.

If you have a church with ganja, person says they believe, you give them ganja, they give church money; hey, we’re fine with all that, though in my neighborhood they used to call that “dealing”.  If you’re providing it at low cost, great, you’re a discount dealer.  We defend dealers all the time, though usually their primary motive is profit, not piety.  The reason marijuana was traded for money is irrelevant to us; we think it should be legal.

So our primary criticism – one you didn’t include in any of your voluminous cut-n-pastes – is with Christie leading people to believe that there already exists now a recognized legal religious right to use cannabis, because there does not.  You may believe there should be.  We believe there should be.  But the Supreme Court doesn’t agree.

Mr. Christie sells on his web site a $250 “Sanctuary Kit” and a $50 “Practitioner’s Kit”.  He explains that these kits demonstrate your religious sincerity and that is the key to defending yourself in court and proving your bona fide religious use.  He’s selling “Get Out Of Jail Free”cards.  Nowhere on the pages where these are sold (,, and does he offer a disclaimer that, yes, indeed, if you’re caught with cannabis, that $50 or $250 card is going to work as well as the Monopoly one and you’re likely going to jail and facing a long expensive court battle.

That’s not to say that some religious users haven’t had charges dismissed or not even filed at all.  But the refusal of police to press charges or the dismissal of cases at criminal court involving small amounts of marijuana isn’t any sort of precedent (which can only be set at the appellate level), it’s more a reflection of an officer’s use of discretion and an overburdened legal system that dismisses such cases whether they are religious use or not.  In some states and cities it is a reflection of NORML’s work to decriminalize or set lowest law enforcement priority that allows the courts and cops that discretion.

People have written to me that Mr. Christie has often given this kit for free, just as he has often given ganja for free.  Great, just like NORML lawyers sometimes help cannabis consumers for free.  But for $250 or for $50 or for $0, he is still misleading cannabis consumers into believing that his magical documents will protect the bearer from law enforcement and it just isn’t so.  Mr. Christie writes ( (emphasis mine):

“Do you have a THC Ministry id card, yet? They work under ‘arrest conditions’ to help set people free. Zero arrest. Zero court. Zero jail. All good.”

“We have had a total of ZERO negative experiences with those who have used our kit. As far as we know we have a perfect track record and we want to keep it that way, for your benefit and ours.”

I know that number is not “ZERO” because I write these stories all the time, like:

[CC editor’s note: Roger Christie has responded to these criticisms directly (before this article was published, in fact). Click here to see the original comment by Christie.]

We don’t dispute that any of these adherents sincerely believed their religion.  We don’t dispute that it is honorable to fight for one’s religious rights.  And please, true believers, stop trying to convince us about 5,000 years of religious use of cannabis because we completely agree with you – we’ve even made Genesis 1:29 and “kaneh bosm” arguments in our own writing (e.g.,

Our complaint is solely with leading lambs to slaughter without making them fully aware of the risks they are facing.  Dr. Martin Luther King never told the sincere believers in the sanctity of civil rights that the march on Selma was going to provide them “ZERO negative experiences”; he fully briefed them on the fire hoses, police dogs, and riot batons they’d face in the valley of the shadow of death and urged non-violent resistance.

(For those who think I’m kicking Roger while he’s down, please note the dates on the hyperlinked stories from The Stash Blog, where I made these same points long before Roger’s indictment.)

Chris Bennett then cites my advice that only legalization for all, even healthy atheists like me, will truly protect medical and religious use without undue restrictions.  He then twists that into imagining that I’m telling the movement we never should have fought for medical use laws.

The crucial distinction this suggestion misses is that nobody ever told medical users pre-1996 they wouldn’t go to jail if they bought a $50 card from a guy based on a legal theory that medical use is currently protected by the Constitution.  Instead, NORML, MPP, DPA, ASA, and others all fought to create medical use laws, many of which do provide a legitimate card that will actually protect you from arrest and jail.

In other words, activists got government to recognize medical use rights through initiative and legislative efforts to create new laws.  Mr. Christie is fighting to get government to recognize religious use rights through litigious efforts to interpret existing case law.  This path has already been much litigated and at least in the short run it is a dead end.  We even tried the litigation path to secure medical use rights in rescheduling petitions and lawsuits against the DEA.  Every legal theory attempted to force courts to recognize a cannabis right that would supersede the Controlled Substances Act has failed and the courts keep telling us to go back to Congress and change the laws.  Now we can hope for judges more willing to extend legal protection to new and alternative religions in the future, but for now those arguments will likely continue to be rejected by the courts.

NORML has the support of some of the finest lawyers in the land.  They have explained to us a procedure the courts use in these cases called the Sherbert Test, which are the four criteria to determine if an individual’s right to religious free exercise has been violated by the government. The test is as follows:

For the individual, the court must determine

(1) Whether the person has a claim involving a sincere religious belief, and

(2) Whether the government action is a substantial burden on the person’s ability to act on that belief.

If these two elements are established, then the government must prove

(3) That it is acting in furtherance of a “compelling state interest,” and

(4) That it has pursued that interest in the manner least restrictive, or least burdensome, to religion.

Unfortunately, point (3)’s “compelling state interest” is prohibiting the general public from using cannabis as laid out in the Controlled Substances Act.  The courts realize that if point (1)’s “sincere religious belief” is only “God wants me to smoke herb”, then there would suddenly be about 26 million sincere religious believers in the United States and that point (3)’s “compelling state interest” would be impossible to enforce.

This is the moment where believers bring up established precedent on use of ayahuasca and peyote by certain religions.  The differences are that a) very few people use peyote or ayahuasca non-religiously, b) the people who do use it infrequently, c) the religions that hold them sacred have traditions and ceremony and theology that don’t deal with the sacraments (i.e. their religion is more than just “let’s do hallucinogens”), d) the members of their church are easily identifiable, so e) letting the believers use hallucinogens isn’t going to substantially burden the compelling state interest of preventing hallucinogen use by non-believers.

In other words, the minute courts decide ganja churches can’t be busted for cannabis, nobody can be busted for cannabis.  Your sacrament is too popular with non-believers.

Another test used by the courts is the Lemon Test.  This test is as follows:

(1) The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose;

(2) The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;

(3) The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.

In the case of cannabis churches, the government’s ban passes (1) in that there is a secular purpose for banning cannabis use and passes (2) because banning cannabis does not promote or inhibit religion (Rastas can believe and preach all they like about the “Tree of Life”, they just can’t grow or use it) and passes (3) because banning cannabis isn’t an “excessive entanglement” (nothing else about the religion is being banned.)

(The “Lemon Sherbert” test, on the other hand, has nothing to do with religious cannabis use, but does make for a tasty snack on a summer day.)

Next Mr. Bennett criticizes my “full disclosure” saying that my atheism “puts [Russ] completely outside of this realm,” referring to the First Amendment.  He says it “is not supposed to be about one religion’s right over another’s – it is supposed to be about the freedom of all religions,” which is a common belief among the religious that dismisses atheism from the same protections they enjoy.  In fact, the First Amendment also provides a freedom from religion and holds that sincere personal non-theistic beliefs enjoy the same protection as religious beliefs (see United States v. Seeger, 1965).

If the conscientious objectors to the Vietnam draft in Seeger need not believe in God to invoke personal beliefs against murder as reason not to be jailed for draft dodging, then Chris Bennett should support my opinion that I need not have belief in God to invoke personal beliefs for using cannabis as reason not to be jailed for it, just as I support the opinion of the religious that their use of sacrament doesn’t deserve punishment.  But once again, our opinions don’t mean squat to the cops, the courts, and the guy with the $50-$250 Get Out Of Jail Free card who’s doing time.

(By the way, I find it interesting that Mr. Bennett attacks my atheism and ignores my Mormon background.  Many members of my ancestors’ church used the same “it’s our sincere religious belief” and “First Amendment!” and “it has 5,000 years of historical tradition in multiple religions” theories to defend the practice of polygamy.  Assuming it is polygamy consisting of multiple consenting non-coerced adults, shouldn’t that be as much a religious right as the right to cannabis sacrament?)

Chris Bennett brings up the famous Guam Rasta case, without noting that it was not the First Amendment that was cited in support of the court’s opinion, it was Guam’s Organic Act, which gives Guam greater protection for religion than the US Constitution.  It should also be noted that the prosecutor in the Guam case failed to present Guam’s compelling interest in banning cannabis and that had he done so, the court may not have been able to issue such a favorable opinion.  Mr. Bennett also brings up a Rasta winning a religious use case in Italy.  Fantastic, if you think that my statement “no court in the land is going to recognize a religion’s right to use cannabis” referred to “the planet” as “the land” and not as “the states of the United States” as was clearly the context of my argument.

Then Chris Bennett expends a whole lot of ink trying to paint our explanation of the government’s opinion and the current state of court decisions as NORML’s opinion.  Our opinion, for the 150th time it seems, is similar to Terrence McKenna’s:

If the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.

We see cannabis use as a human right, not merely a religious right.  No government has the right to prevent you from using cannabis for whatever purpose and reason you choose, so long as you don’t harm others.  Our beliefs say that Roger, Chris, and I can all use cannabis because we want to.  Roger and Chris seem to believe that I should only get to use cannabis if I renounce my atheism, or at the very least, consider cannabis to be sacred.

What we’re trying to explain is how the courts have decided these cases and what some lawyers have told us they’d need to see in a case before trying to defend it as religious (the “black Rasta” quotes aren’t mine; they are me quoting a lawyer I know who defends many cannabis cases and who is certified to litigate all the way to the Supreme Court).  We’re trying to make the point that pursuit of the litigation strategy that defines cannabis use as protected sacrament is a fool’s errand not because it’s foolish to fight for your rights but because that particular strategy has already been tried every which way and has already failed.

Now, naturally, the people with sincere belief who are prosecuted have every right to try to make that argument stick and we really do hope our analysis is faulty and Roger sets a precedent that allows people to claim a religious use arguments (because we know a few lawyers who will then take that precedent and make it available to all users, even atheists).  But we at NORML do not need to be throwing our supporters’ donations at a strategy we believe is doomed to fail, especially when we have legislative strategies that, when they succeed, protect all the users of cannabis: medical, spiritual, and recreational.

Indeed, in our support of California’s Prop 19, we attempted to change the laws so that everyone’s right to personal use and cultivation of cannabis is recognized, regardless of religion.  We helped get the greatest level of support for legalization in a statewide initiative ever, with 46.1% of California voters agreeing with our belief in personal cannabis rights for all.  Maybe Mr. Bennett considers that another NORML “failure” since it didn’t pass, but we see the steadily increasing public opinion support for legalization (up to 46% from 12% in the early 1970s when we began) and the increasing percentages supporting statewide legalization measures (up from California’s 1972 Prop 19 which got 33.5%) to be success.

What Allen and I were trying to say to the religious use community is that your best path to recognition of religious rights is not through litigating the courts to jettison precedent and decide for a favorable First Amendment / RFRA decision, but through legislating personal marijuana use rights for all people, even atheists and heathens.  We’re not saying you’re wrong; we’re saying the courts say you’re wrong.  But as Mr. Bennett’s article and the various responses to it from religious users have proven, it is nigh impossible for true believers to separate an criticism of one religious user’s legal tactics and commercial advertising from an attack on religious use itself… especially when it’s an atheist behind the keyboard.



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  3. Anonymous on

    my impression of the learned author of this article is that he has no comfort zone or experience relating to honest home-spun country-style religious fervor (on a spiritual level).

    guys like christie, emery and julian assange are the pointsmen in the battle for dignity.

    let’s find ways to co-operate as ALLIES and brothers-in-arms.



  4. Anonymous on

    I have had a chance to talk to roger christie a few times over the past 20 years. We are not friends or even acquaintances really, brothers u could say. But I have followed his story and do admire the man.

    this is a good, courageous and spiritual person. it is obvious. he is NOT in it for the bucks.

    he is being persecuted/prosecuted because he has dared to effectively challenge, in the time honored way, the system.

    dea head-of-snake think is why. this agency is vile.

    will our courageous types all end up in gulag solitary? r u next?

  5. Anonymous on

    in hawaii the state narcotics enforcement administration reschedules drugs from time to time.

    our activists are very nice, educated and tame refusing to do the obvious.


  6. Anonymous on

    some powerful people opposed to mj legalization have placed a mojo around the idea of rescheduling.

    the truth is BLATANTLY simple:

    cannabis has medicinal value therefore it does not qualify as a schedule one drug.

    And yet all our progressive legal minds say no no and no way jose to get that done.

    that HAS to be sonic bonic bullsh!t.

    because the truth trumps ALWAYS (sooner or later).

    who may presume to know when except maybe wikileaks?


  7. mtlasagna on

    been following norml from their website for about a year and have written responses to articles as mtlasagna.

    the norml position as i understood it was that prop 19 was going to fail and therefore not worth an expenditure of time and money. Much later after the oaksterdam ball got rolling they jumped on board and acted like they were hip all along.

    their current position does seem a bit two faced and self-serving but hey no one is perfect.


  8. Anonymous on

    Dear Chris,
    Whether one can get high from a drug throgh transdermal means is not an issue. The problem you raise is a deep theological problem specific to Christanity which unfortunately does effect the question of the religious use of marijuana. The problem is that the justification of the religious use of cannabis is based by some on the historical existence of Jesus Christ. If it turns out that jesus christ was a mythological figre not a historical person your whole argument for religious cannabis use in Christianity is destroyed. This is unfair to Christians because it deprives them of the religious use of cannabis. If a historical personal Christ did not exist and the argument for religious cannabis use rests on the idea that a historical personal christ used cannabis the argument for religious cannabis use in Christianity is severely damaged. Really my bone of contention with you has nothing to do with cannabis use per se but with the blind assumption that a historical person named Jesus Christ existed. It is not true thatn such a person ever existed. Please read The Jesus Mysteries and Jesus and The Lost Goddess by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. They outline what I belive is a correct argument for the idea that Jesus Christ is a purely mythological non-historical figure who is neither devine or human but is fictional. The truth is that I do know much about the early days of Christianity and do understand what the whole rising movement of spitual users is about. There is much genuine history in what you and others have uncovered about spiritual cannabis use but the notion of the historical Christ is not part of that genuine history. Too often there is just a knee jerk assmption that a historical Christ existed and from the basis of this false assumption the argument goes on from there. I will not hide the fact that I am a priest of the pagan Greek religious tradition. To me all gods are psychological archetypes. I follow a materialist Epicurean philosophical tradition. THe hollidays in the liturgical calendar represent not historical events but points in the natural cycle of the year that involves planting, harvesting, etc. There is no need to engage in historical fantasies or believe that the archetypes, represented as gods are other than biological life processes. Christ, like Dionysus and Osiris represents a cultural form of the solar vegitation archetype. The point is however that cannabis spirituality is valid whether or not one’s religion in the past has used cannabis spritually or not because cannabis helps us visualize the archetypes we call gods and develop theologal and philosophical ideasn in visions. I cannot prove that a given pagan Greek cult used or did not use cannabis; this information is lost to history. The important thing to my Hellenic pagan and to all religions is what we do today to have that spiritual experience of the divine. I am adullt enough to recoginze that none of thhe Hellenic gods ever existed as personal beings; they are all mythological fictional beings. Why cant Christians act in as an adult a way and recogize Christ to be a fictional mythological being? It will not destroy Christian spirituallity or negatively effect Christian cannabis spirituality. If any religion does not now have or has lost cannabis spituality then establish cannabis sprituality now. Admit that it is new within the religion if it is new and a revival if it is a revival of an old practice. But be historically accurate. Do not claim it is a revival if one’s “proof” rests on the historical existence of a person who never existed; simply admit that cannabis spirituality is a new form of the spirituality of that religion. In closing I advise you to read The Jesus mysteries by Freke and Gandy; you will get what I feel is a more accurate historical presentation of the issue.

  9. Samson on

    I totally agree. How can Cannabis be called a drug??? As I understand it “drugs” have to be manufactured…..cannabis is just hung to dry and then consumed… whatever manner. And just for sh!ts and giggles…. to those(including myself) who do believe in the Bible—the Bible talks about Moderation and your body as a “temple”.

    #1. How can a highly concentrated dose in pill form be filed under MODERATION….does not seem correct to me.

    #2. Many pills cause harmful side effects—-is that not the same as harming your TEMPLE….?

    …………..think about it

  10. MountainLionCO on

    The purpose of NORML should to unite like minded people in as large of numbers as possible. Laws are for the people by the people. Problem historically has been many marijuana users are isolated and cant fight the government alone.

    So it would be natural for NORML to support ANYBODY arrested for marijuana.

    I guess their idea is that they are going to somehow legalize marijuana with a roomful of lawyers in washington d.c. without the world noticing one day.

  11. MountainLionCO on

    When a mmj grower in colorado got busted this year by the feds, (chris bartcowicz, spelling wrong) state representatives rallied behind him against the feds.

    I suppose Russ is the kind of person who would let a TSA worker stick their finger in his butt, if they said it was the LAW.

  12. MountainLionCO on

    Russell’s assessment of medical exemptions is not much better:

    “I’ve said it before to the medical users and I’ll say it to the religious users: carving out an exemption for yourselves from the criminality of cannabis prohibition is always going to lead to undue restrictions for you at best and a jail cell at worst. Only through legalization for all adults, even healthy atheists like me, can any cannabis user fully realize their medical and spiritual rights to cannabis.”

    Imagine if the movement, years ago, actually heeded advice such as this in regards to medical marijuana? Would it now be legal in 15 states and Federally in Canada?


  13. MountainLionCO on

    Federal law does not recognize medical marijuana either, so by Russ’ logic, 100,000 people in Colorado made a mistake by getting a state MMJ card.

  14. Antipas on

    “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”

    I disagree with the charts. I don’t believe using pot is a sacrament. I don’t think cannabis was in an annointing oil described in the Bible, I don’t believe any of that stuff. My beliefs are somewhere between a Reformed and Arminian theology. I’m a Protestant, an Evangelical. I’m a Christian of the “worst” kind, the last kind you’d think would support legalizing pot.
    I believe in the First Freedom. I will ungrudgingly render to Caesar all that is Caesar’s, but under no circumstances will I render to Caesar that which is God’s. “Far be it from me by the LORD, that I should give to you my inheritance.”
    -and here’s two links and ten minutes worth of explaining why the chart is wrong, and why religious liberty means liberty for all.

    Religious Liberty makes sense and is applicable to those who are compelled to believe. It doesn’t make much sense to people who don’t believe.
    NORML political analysts should read the New Testament, and then start to read the Bible daily. It would make them sharper when talking to politicians. They might not notice, but there’s still a pretty good handful of Christians around. Language is capable of communicating, when you understand what you’re talking about.

  15. superhighme on

    I think all of this in fighting is not just pointless but damaging to the legalization effort. It seems the best way to end this is for norml and this church to go their separate way and if the church starts a movement that catches on than norml should do what’s in the best interest of the movment and help them also when norml calls for support in an area (say a call for votes) than the church should call it’s members to help. Your both fighting for the same thing every time these articles exchange more people take sides for a religious debate losing site of the big picture and giving the rest of the world the idea that “the stupid pot heads don’t know they’re on the same side” and what’s worse they give anti-marijuana groups a perfect target for attack at this point all they need to do is keep the fight going disband the church and then it will be are you a good person or are you an evil church hating pot head.

    To sum it all up please norml people and church people smoke a joint calm down and go after the right groups.

  16. Anonymous on

    If I remember right there is a group of Americans who belong to the church of peyote and got permission by the court to grow and use peyote but don’t think that the religious argument will free cannabis for religious use in the USA.
    It is almost impossible to swallow peyote and keep it in your stomach.
    So the group of users will be very, very limited.
    Cannabis on the other hand can be taken far more easily than peyote and has by far more users. Lets say for arguments sake that 55% of the population is against legalizing cannabis. I don’t think they have morally the right to refuse it to the other 45% of the population. Otherwise you can apply the following: ” Democracy is when two wolves and one sheep are deciding whats for dinner “.
    Rule by majority YES but only if minorities who harm nobody are protected from abuses by the majority.

  17. Anonymous on


  18. Roger Christie, from Prison on

    In regards to Russ’ list, he failed to note the response Roger gave to this same list:

    Russ is quoting early writing on my website from BEFORE we had any reported negative incidents with our i.d. cards that I knew about. That particular information is not supposed to be on there now as it is false information. We’ve HAD a disclaimer on our website’s homepage from my lawyer Steven Strauss for many years. When we remodeled the site I hired a web guy to do the work and it might have been misplaced? I can’t view the internet so I can’t verify if it is still on there today, or not. (Mike – can you check on this asap, please? Mahalo.) Regardless, I must and I do take responsibility for it. I have offered my personal license number on all of our member’s i.d. cards and plant tags as I felt I had enough state ‘immunity from prosecution’ because of my sincerity, my ordainment in a court-stipulated ‘bona fide’ church, and my lifetime valid license from the State of Hawaii as a “Cannabis sacrament” Minister. I thought all that provided enough ‘reasonable doubt’ in the minds of any jury in the land that heard it. I still feel that way.

    As far as I know, we have had 113 successes with our i.d. cards and Kits ‘under arrest conditions’ reported to us and catalogued in our ‘testimonials’ section. Two new reports of success with our i.d. cards came to me from Ohio just one week ago from our Rev. Nathan Lester.

    1.) Trevor Douglas was NOT a member when he was ticketed for Cannabis. He officially joined us AFTER the incident. I personally know and like Trevor.

    2.) Michael Lineker has his OWN ministry and did NOT present a THC Ministry defense. His arrest began when he was reported to have tapped-into a public electric line for his grow-room power, triggering an investigation and effectively negating the sincerity and truthfulness needed for a ‘religious defense’. I know Michael and I like him and his wife. I found out about the electric matter when I asked him about what triggered his arrest. I wish them well.

    3.) Steven Swallick was a THC Ministry member with Sanctuary Kit who also was reported to have tapped into public electric lines to power his grow room which triggered an investigation and arrest. I don’t know for a fact if this is true, I just heard it reported as true. His Judge refused to allow a ‘religious defense’. I have talked with Steve many times and I like him a lot. I don’t know what officially led to his arrest. Our Ministry method apparently failed in his case, but he was NOT given a fair or honest trial, either. He is the ONLY other THC Ministry member in jail or prison that I am aware of. I wish him well.

    4.) Dan and Mary Quaintence are NOT members of the THC Ministry now or ever. They apparently led a lifestyle that looked insincere to court witnesses as ‘religious’. They failed in their effort to win a ‘religious defense’ for their own Church of Cognizance. I wish them well.

    5.) As far as I recall Bruce and Brenda Shoop were NOT THC Ministry members when they were arrested and did NOT present a THC Ministry defense. I like Brenda and her husband Bruce. I wish them well.

    State v. Blake in Hawaii states that in order to present a ‘religious defense’ to marijuana charges a person must be sincere and legitimate. In my opinion, sincerity comes from good manners, truthfulness and respect. Legitimacy comes from a valid connection with a ‘bona fide’ court-stipulated church or Ministry, and a valid license from a state or federal government authority. I was ordained in a ‘bona fide’ church and have a lifetime license as a “Cannabis sacrament” Minister by the State of Hawaii.

    Robert George Henry became a member four months AFTER his arrest, as Russ mentioned, effectively negating his ‘legitimacy’ as a member of the THC Ministry, and likely invalidating any effective ‘religious defense to prosecution’. I wish him well.

    We have had two successes out of two experiences with baptising newborns (born at home without official birth certificates) and re-uniting them legally with their birth Mothers. Our official baptism paperwork with Ministry seal allowed the Mothers to apply for and receive an official birth certificate from the State for their child. This new-found legitimacy allowed those single Moms to receive state-sponsored benefits like health care and food stamps.

    We’ve also had success in years past with assisting low-income THC Ministry members to stave-off eviction from government-subsidized housing over ‘marijuana charges’. Since 9-11, government policies have changed making this harder, if not impossible to achieve.

    a little more from Roger,
    P.S. Trevor Douglas never sent me any donation. I gifted him with a Cannabis Sanctuary Kit as a token of my appreciation for his sincerity, his courage and his personal ‘mana’ in speaking-out for Cannabis sacrament. A $250. gift – one of many we were happy to bless people with who needed it or deserved it. (Just to help make a complete and accurate record of my activities and motives.)

    God that’s great that I was criticized in High Times! The obvious ‘blessings’ are occuring as you just reported to me. We are safe, we are loved and all is well. And so it is.

    P.S. I’m a spiritual guy because spirituality is ‘practical’ to me. It helps to solve problems like nothing else can do. Forgiveness, confession, making amends, blessing, prayer, redemption, atonement, etc., etc. Great stuff! Can do miracles with it.

    P.P.S. Trevor was and is v-e-r-y happy to fight his case all-the-way for Cannabis sacrament for healthy people to use as sacrament. He was interviewed in the New York Times, Associated Press carried it all over the world, and Der Spiegel Magazine from Germany interviewed him about ‘freedom of religion’ in the USA and Cannabis as sacrament. I’m certain that Trevor thinks his experience of fighting the Cannabis charge in Colorado was WELL worth it for him – and for the cause!

    All the very best to everyone,

    Roger Christie, Founder

    THC Ministry

  19. Carl Olsen on

    Both the state and federal controlled substances acts contain criteria for rescheduling. Oregon bypassed this process by reclassifying marijuana legislatively instead of evaluating it under the criteria. Iowa is using for formal process for rescheduling, which is slower, but more credible. Oregon has not moved for federal reclassification, because Oregon knows the process it used will not fly with the DEA. Prove me wrong, Oregon.

  20. Anonymous on

    Hey, I love great conversation on the internet!

  21. Anonymous on

    Look at this cheap ass religious war your all going into… if NORML started in ’86, nobody needs to be impressed by that, not much different in 25 years??? Nice try, get out! Of your cocoons of Christ, we all know Jesus was the burning bush that walked through walls! Or…. was Jesus burning bush crabs and herpes? Evil satanic diseases?

  22. Anonymous on

    JEHOVAH WITNESSES – always hated by everyone, will walk to your front door and throw info in your face, we all hate them already

  23. Jason Karimi on

    Unless it’s been covered before of course.

    I’m taking my understanding from the ruling in Gonzalez v Oregon. I know the MPP stated earlier this year that there’s nothing the states can do to protect patients from the feds, but I’ve also heard other activists vehemently argue just the opposite.

    And yeah, I know the law judge ruling was non binding…kinda like Obama’s non binding memo that Leonhart is going to ignore. I can’t wait til this crap is over with (and I see it ending relatively quickly now) so we can use this wonderful plant…hemp as well.

    By the way, in case you haven’t heard, the Iowa BOP today said that they are going to go ahead and pre-file legislation to take marijuana out of schedule I in Iowa! While it’s not the same as getting a medical program in place for sure, it’s a great step for us. I’m in a great mood today :D.

    Jason Karimi

  24. Chris Bennett on

    Jack Herer on the religious use of cannabis and cannabis history (1995)
    Here is what the Founder of the modern hemp and marijuana movement, Jack Herer had to say about the potential and relevance of the religious history of cannabis in his forward to my own partially co-authored book, Green Gold the Tree of Life: Marijauna in Magic and Religion, and it should be noted that I would say that at this time, this line of research was still in its infancy:
    Twenty three years ago, I began the study of Cannabis sativa, marijuana, as hemp in industry, medicine and religion. One of the big surprises for me was how virtually every religion of the Old World, from early Pantheism to Hinduism; from the Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Esssens; the Jewish, Christian, Moslem, Sufi, Theraputae of Egypt, to the Bantus, Zulas, Hottentots etc. of Africa; all used cannabis/hemp for fiber, food, oil, medicine, and as one of their sacred religious catalysts. For the majority of our ancient ancestors cannabis was the most important sacrament to commune with their gods….
    Hemp drugs were a ritual link with the gods themselves. For example the incense burners of the Jewish temples, filled with cannabis, hash oils, etc., would swing back and forth into parishioners’ faces causing them to perceive things much differently. Hemp as incense was cooked and eaten or heated and smoked.
    Throughout my studies of the religious pasts of marijuana for THE EMPEROR, I wondered how far someone could go in telling the myths and religious use of psychedelic substances, e.g., magic mushrooms, cannabis , blue water lilies, mandrake, etc. Lynn and Judy Osburn (the main editors of THE EMPEROR from 1990 on) and Chris Bennett have done the most important and remarkable job of delving into the history of the sacramental use of cannabis, and proving that indeed virtually all our religions were based on drug induced initiation. To initiate one with cannabis or magic mushrooms was the rite of passage in most sects.
    No one has done a better nor more comprehensive job of proving the importance, indeed the necessity, of cannabis in religion. No where has more scholarship been done to prove that hemp was the number one or two sacrament for the majority of humanity’s religions. Today this knowledge of hemp as a sacrament has been forgotten or censored out of most organized religions. Some ignorant religious leaders even run around saying that cannabis is so bad it must be wiped from the face of the earth…. With the proof of cannabis ingestion as magic in religion… coupled with the comprehensive information about hemp’s 25,000 uses as earth’s number one plant, it won’t be long until millions throw of the yoke of religious repression against the plants of the gods.
    Love Jack Herer, October 30, 1995

  25. Chris Bennett on

    Paul, thank you for your well presented answer, and I would hope that in future, that is the type of response that others with such questions might recieve from your Outreach director. as it stands, Russ’ latest article, has gone a long way to healing any wounds, and I am canning the piece i was working on in response to this one, as I am willing to leave Russ with the last word since it ends on a kinder note this time.

  26. Paul Armentano on


    I am not a lawyer but I believe the answer is ‘no.’ The DEA is the federal entity that controls scheduling. Just today the agency has announced its move to schedule cannabis agonists JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol to Schedule I. They have the authority to do so on their own, without action from HHS, DEA, FDA, or Congress.

    The administrative rescheduling process, which goes before the DEA’s Administrative Law Judge, is non-binding. That means that DEA can ultimately not abide by the decision, which it did in NORML v DEA, Craker v DEA, the DEA ALJ ruling to reschedule MDMA, etc. A state’s decision to reschedule does not carry any weight on DEA’s action. An act of Congress could compel DEA to reschedule, but short of that the decision ultimately sits with them and HHS, which has an advisory role in the decision.

  27. hoam rogh on

    And 20 years ago the evidence was clear, now it compellingly oppressive. Basically in the past 20 years the level of scientific understanding of cannabis has risen to such a level that courts can no longer turn a blind eye to the “rational basis” for criminalizing commercial cannabis.

    It’s not “new” info, never has been. The plant is the plant. But we have a clearer understanding of the facts as they did not have -or could reasonably fudge- in the past.


    Recreational use helps Medical and Religious users but Medical and Religious use leaves us Recreational Smokers out of the picture! FOUL!!!!!!

  29. Chris Bennett on

    I think Russ’ most recent article about Roger’s case
    went a long way towards healing any wounds here, and I don’t want to re-awaken this controversy with my response to the above article. I have put my sword back in its sheath for now, and I am willing to let things sit with Russ’ latest piece. I think Paul did a good job of relating NORML’s accomplishments and endevors, and hopefully there is no more need to shake the skeletons in the closet that were not mentioned.

  30. Jason Karimi on

    Thanks for the information. My intent in my remarks is not to cause more arguing, but to see if this issue can be useful to the cause.

    We all know marijuana’s schedule I status is a joke. As I understand it (and I could be misinformed), the CSA is set up for the feds to follow the states and not vice versa.

    So with Tennessee’s scheduling differing from federal scheduling, can’t the Attorney General sue the feds and make them reschedule cannabis on the federal level? And if so, isn’t that something that should be looked at?



  31. Paul Armentano on


    I posted a separate response previously to your post about state rescheduling. It appears near the end of this thread. I don’t believe that its is in any way argumentative; just an acknowledgement of the previous work that has been done in other states on this same topic.


  32. Jason Karimi on

    The Legislature has said that the Board of Pharmacy has the ability to not only take marijuana out of schedule I by administrative action, but also to implement a medical program.
    The Board of Pharmacy has said that the Legislature is wrong, and that the law doesn’t say what the Legislature is claiming.

    The Des Moines Register even ran a cartoon, with two men representing the legislature and the BOP, hiding from a joint, saying “You first.”

    In an hour here, the Board is holding a meeting and is going to let us know what’s going on. Should be interesting.

  33. Jason Karimi on

    Like many people in the movement, I am critical of others.

    But there’s a difference between constructive criticism, and childish bickering.

    I have a great deal of respect for both you, Paul, and Chris. But Chris, like I pointed out, and Paul reiterated, you are misinterpreting an innocuous statement. Even if you are right in you’re interpretation, this level of arguing is not constructive.

    Like many people, I have criticisms for NORML, the MPP, and other organizations, in that I, like all activists, want the best options and strategies discussed so that we can all bring this prohibition to an end that much sooner.

    My question earlier, “Why hasn’t NORML applied for state rescheduling?” was not intended to start an argument, but to foster discussion. After seeing how well this strategy worked here in Iowa, I wish to let the other states know as soon as possible so they can do the same thing.

    Between now and 2012, California should get action going to have marijuana’s incorrect schedule I status reviewed, and rescheduled. I’m sure there are already people working on this, but even so, I think it’s an issue that we all need to focus on. Focusing on what works, rather than who can out argue who, is what we need to focus on.

    I’d like to thank Russ Belville of NORML for agreeing to talk with me about what we did here in Iowa. Hopefully NORML can give this issue some more press so that other states can have as big of an impact in regards to the scheduling status of marijuana at the state level as Iowa did. Many other states have already started doing this. Oregon has recently changed their schedule. I think this should be a priority in California so that, next time a Prop 19 vote comes around, marijuana will no longer be lumped in with actually harmful drugs like Peyote and Heroin.

    Please keep this discussion focused on what we can do together to achieve our goals.

    We all want the same thing…freedom. We’re all doing the best we can. Let’s not waste time bickering and arguing, and focus our attention on the work that needs done.


    Jason Karimi

  34. Paul Armentano on


    I’ve purposely stayed out of this discussion, and intend to in the future. But I do want to say this. If you really wish to write an objective feature on NORML, its past, present, and future efforts, then you will take ample time to actually research the organization and speak to those involved, including the some of the leaders of our 100+ grassroots chapters on the ground. Reposting a smattering of public comments from an ex-employee and a couple of (at that moment) disgruntled advisory board members does not a story make.

    Your jumping ugly on Russ’ offhand comment re: NORML’s support of Prop. 19 is a perfect example of this. You obviously have NO IDEA what NORML’s role was in this campaign. I do. I was retained in an official advisory capacity by the Prop. 19 campaign. I sat in on dozens and dozens of weekly strategy sessions with RL, Maurico Gauzon, Dale Jones etc. to assist on strategy, messaging, etc. I published dozens of op/eds on behalf of the campaign in all of the major CA papers, including three in the LA Times, the San Jose Mercury News, the Sacto Bee, Christian Science Monitor, etc. I also ghost wrote numerous others upon which my name did not appear. I assisted with the drafting of the official ballot arguments and summary that appeared in the CA voters guide. I fielded numerous media inquiries on behalf of the campaign. NORML availed its e-mail list and facebook pages to the campaign for fundraising purposes whenever it was asked to. NORML solicited funds on 4/20 — historically our biggest fundraising day of the year — to go to the Campaign rather than our organization. And Russ personally dedicated hundreds of hours of podcast time and his own time to speak about the Campaign and respond to citizens questions about its language.

    Like I said, I have no interest getting sucked in to this battle, and I don’t plan on making further posts on the matter. But if you intend to, you may wish to do some digging beforehand.

    Paul Armentano
    NORML Deputy Director

  35. Paul Stanford on

    Paul Armentano, I greatly appreciate your work for NORML and for all of us. Thank you for being there and representing the cause so well.

  36. Paul Stanford on

    Oregon was the first and, so far, only state to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II, and did so effective July, 1, 2010, after Oregon’s legislature directed the Oregon Board of Pharmacy to do so last June 2009. The Iowa Board of Pharmacy recommends unanimously that marijuana be rescheduled likewise, but awaits action from the Iowa legislature before it may act.

    I hope for peace on all fronts of the war on cannabis.

  37. Paul Armentano on

    To clarify, several states such as Tennessee, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia, rescheduled marijuana and/or its components by statute. Doing so has not had any tangible effect on criminal enforcement in those states. Conversely, several states have enacted state legislation protecting select medical cannabis users from arrest, but have not amended scheduling. Some states, like Oregon, have done so. Some states, like South Dakota, leave cannabis unscheduled.

    A state-by-state breakdown of scheduling is here:

    NORML is a co-petitioner in the most recent administrative petition seeking to rescheduling cannabis under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. This petition was filed in 2002. DEA has yet to respond to it. They have also failed to respond to a separate petition regarding rescheduling CBD only. You can read about the petition here:

  38. Carl Olsen on

    Judge Young’s ruling was before any state had enacted a law saying marijuana is medicine. The ruling from the DEA at that time was that marijuana has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. That was 1989. The appeal court rejected the appeal in 1991 and again in 1994. The first state to accept the medical use of marijuana was California in 1996. A state attorney general has to apply for federal rescheduling and none of them have done that. Yes, Michelle Leonhart makes the final decision. No, the states have not asked her. The state has the right to a decision from Michelle Leonhart on whether marijuana has accepted medical use in treatment in the United States now that 15 states have accepted it. No state has done that. The U.S. Supreme Court has explained this in detail in Gonzales v. Oregon, 546 U.S. 243 (2006), because the Attorney General of Oregon sued the Attorney General of the United States and won. The ruling says state lawmakers determine accepted medical use, not federal bureaucrats like Michelle Leonhart.

  39. Jason Karimi on


    Since you must be busier today than you were the day Chris original article appeared on CC, I’m going to rephrase my question about NORML and state scheduling. It’s obvious they have never tried that angle, and it has only become a recent realization for the movement.

    Here’s my question.

    What can we do to get Iowa’s situation, and the huge victory it means for the medical movement around the world, some press on NORML? Seems like you guys might have missed the story.


    Jason Karimi
    Co-founder, Iowa Patients for Medical Marijuana
    Like us on Facebook!

  40. Jason Karimi on

    Iowa did exactly what you say no state has done, back in 2009.
    Activist Carl Olsen made the argument that, since marijuana has “medically accepted use in the united states” (13 states at the time were medical), that the Iowa Board of Pharmacy MUST recommend to the state Legislature that they remove marijuana’s schedule I status.

    The Board of Pharmacy threw out his argument.

    The case ended up in court. Judge Joel Novak of Des Moines ruled in Carl’s favor: the Board was forced to respond. This was a legal argument, purely.

    The Board of Pharmacy ended up unanimously recommending that not only marijuana be removed from schedule I, but that a medical program be implemented.

    Today, in three hours, I’m going to go to a BOP meeting where they will tell us what the next steps are going to be for a medical program here in Iowa.

    Either way, marijuana will be removed from schedule I status this legislative session or the next.

    Once that happens, we here in Iowa, will force the feds to do the same thing.

    Maybe NORML should pay more attention. They might actually be able to accomplish something if they let people know about this.

    Jason Karimi

    Iowa Patients for Medical Marijuana co-founder

  41. kusher on

    You should keep quiet because you’re a dork without a clue what you’re talking about. You’ve obviously never tried pot (with your ignorant alcohol-driving-marijuana analogy). As Mark Twain once said: “sometimes it’s best to keep your mouth shut and at least look intelligent, instead of opening it up and proving to everyone that you’re not”. K

  42. Anonymous on

    Nobody has asked the states to take cannabis out of Schedule I because the states cannot do that. I believe the Director of the DEA (need a fact check on that, I responded as soon as I got to your comment) is the only person responsible for scheduling drugs. I’m not sure if I got the position right, but there is only 1 person in this country allowed to schedule or reschedule drugs. Right now, I believe it is Michele Leonhart. Good luck getting her to act on Judge Young’s ruling. We might be able to go to court and sue to have Judge Young’s ruling enforced – after all, if you or I simply refused to abide by the terms of a court’s decision we’d have cops on the doorstep immediately – but that’s all we can really do. The case was decided, it’s now out of our hands. I’m too young to know this for a fact, but I suspect that the refusal of our gov’t to act on this ruling was part of the impetus behind the beginning of the state by state MMJ movement.

  43. Anonymous on

    Cannabis should be legal because it’s good for medicine, recreation, food, textiles, wood, plastics, the list goes on. Religion doesn’t come into it… religion is a ‘cop out’ excuse to do anything.

  44. Anonymous on

    Actually, NORML’s lawyers tried to address this issue over 20 years ago. Belville, earlier in the article, referenced reform favorable court decisions which have been ignored by the gov’t. This referred, in part, to the 1986 (I think that’s the year, correct me if I’m wrong) administrative court order by Judge Francis Young finding that cannabis was wrongly placed in Schedule I and ordering the DEA to reschedule it. You may be able to tell by our current federal laws that the DEA neglected to do so. No action was ever taken by the gov’t to try to enforce the ruling. The federal MMJ program was already in place by this point; I’m pretty sure it was part of the evidence upon which Judge Young based his decision, so it’s not exactly new information to the courts.

  45. Anonymous on

    I wonder what would happen if every cannabis user that felt they had benefited spiritually came together and demanded religious protection.

    Spirituality and religion is not just for those who believe in an intelligent creator.

    Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or immaterial reality;[1] an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of their being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop an individual’s inner life; such practices often lead to an experience of connectedness with a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with the divine realm.[3] Spirituality is often experienced as a source of inspiration or orientation in life.[4] It can encompass belief in immaterial realities or experiences of the immanent or transcendent nature of the world.

    Like it or not…I think that is a good argument for ending prohibition. If ‘I just want to get high” works for you…more power to you. Personally I want more than that.



  46. Anonymous on


    I think the majority of religious users of cannabis would like to see prohibition ended for all.

    However, we do feel that we have rights under the constitution of the United States that have not been protected. This is a firmly held belief by all members of the THC Ministry including the atheist members. – Yes, atheist members. You make inaccurate assumptions about that Roger would feel “that I should only get to use cannabis if I renounce my atheism, or at the very least, consider cannabis to be sacred.” What Roger would like is for you to respect his right to believe the plant is sacred.

    I find it interesting that you say Chris attacked you for being an atheist. I didn’t see that. I will have to go back over the articles. What I do see is you use terms like “dealer” and “fraud.” Moonlighting for the prosecution Russ?

    You have no idea how active the members of the religious use community have been in supporting ALL efforts to end cannabis prohibition. I have given money to every major player in the US and I have contributed money to the religious use groups without receiving any thing I might receive from a “dealer.” I will continue to give money to MPP, DPA and others. I am not so sure about NORML.

    Regarding the religion of your childhood, as far as I am concerned if you want multiple wives go for it. I fully support your right to believe in it and litigate it.

    Being married myself I don’t understand that desire. Perhaps that is the same way with you not seeing the spiritual healing and insight cannabis can offer the introspective user.

  47. Anonymous on

    One should make a distiction between the religious use method of achieving legalization and religious use. The problem comes with dealing marijuana and selling bogus get out of jail free cards not in religious use per se. If one had a single person or a group of people who knew each other buy marijuana from a secular dealer and used marijuana in a religious context without dealing to each other or anybody else one would have religious use but one would not have any of the problems associated with the religious method of achieving legalization. I support religious use even when the theology of the religion is at varance with mine (Christie is a Christian wheras I am Hellenic Pagan)but the religious method of achieving legalization is a flawed method for the reasons listed above. That said I think it is important to point out some theological problems that may harm Christie. First of all we have documented religious use with pagan Scythian religion, the religion of the Oxus river culture, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism. The oil mentioned in the Old Testament is an anointing oil used in the coronation of the kings of Isreal. This infused oil was never smoked but was only applied on the forehead. One cannot get stoned by simply having such an oil applied on the forehead. The oil used in the Christian sacrament of confirmation has never been proved to be descended from the oil used in the anointment of the Israeli king. There is no proof that hash oil was ever smoked as a sacrament amongst early Christians. All evidence I know of seems to point to the early Christians having no opinion on the subject of cannabis. The burning bush Moses saw, the tree of life in the garden of Eden and the tree for the healing of all nations in the Revelation According to John were all fictional mythological trees; the early Cristians never equated any of them to cannabis. The good news is that anti-cannabis hate is not intrinisic to Christiantity. The bad news for Christians is that cannabis was never a Christian sacrament. The really bad news for Christians is that in the late 1400s cannabid became negatively associated for the first time with “witches”, that is, pagans. This was the beginning of the association of anti-cannabis hate with Christianity. It somewhat died off after the burning times but at the time that alchohol prohibition was beginning to be proposed anti-cannabis hate became popular amongst American fundamentalist Christians. It is these people who promoted the modern idea of the equation of anti-cannabis hate to Christianity. Indeed, these Christian fanatics who were in reality completely opposed to the neutral attitude early Christians had toward cannabis were a major factor in getting cannabis made illegal in this country. Today these so called “Christian” fanatics are a major factor in keeping cannabis illegal. I admire people like Christie wanting to contradict this evil trend within his religion. But it does no good to say that cannabis was a sacrament of the early Christians when it was not. The euchatist was always a meal made up of bread and wine; this was true even from the beginning days of Christianity. It is fine to say that one is establishing a new religious tradition in which cannabis replaces bread and wine as the sacrament of the eucharist but to falsely say that it is an ancient Christian tradition to use cannabis as a sacrament is wrong. If a someone of any religion wanted to use cannabis as something to use in a liturgy it is fine; but one does not need to justify it by sayng it was used in this way or not used in this way until the historical evidence is in. To use false historical claims to justify the use of a sacrament that has modern origins only harms those making false historical claims; it makes thwe religion seem bogus when it is not. The notion of an individual or group buying cannabis from a secular legal medical dealer or secular illegal dealer to use in a liturgy is one thing. One has real religious use but not an attemt to use religious exempion as a menas to achieve legalization. I think the religious exemption method is a poor method; it cannot achieve legalization for all. Understand that the regime hates us. What it will do for peyote it will not do with cannabis. Be honest with theology and do not try the religious exemption method to achieve legalization; it will not work.

  48. Reverend Ryan on

    I have supported NORML for years. I am concerned with the recent statements in a negative regard to religious freedom, and Roger Christie.
    I am at a fork in the road with NORML. I hope NORML makes corrective actions by apologizing to Mr. Christie and more so I hope that NORML retracts it’s negative statements about cannabis faith.

    This is my video response to Russ Belville. I was on his show in the second hour last week, and I stuck up for Roger Christie and religious freedom.

    Russ came at me with the points about how Roger Christie is taking donations for a kit that doesn’t work for it’s intended purpose.

    However I have never saw Russ complain about the medical pot doctors that sell (not even donations, they sell) medical recommends at an inflated price of $200 for a 5 minute Dr. consultation, and thousands of legal patients still get arrested for their medicine in this country.
    All I ask of Russ is to be fair. If you are going to criticize Roger Christie, then also criticize the MMJ docs for the same thing.
    These medical recommends are not 100% effective either!!

  49. Anonymous on

    The first comment on this blog, sounds like a heroin user.
    Maybe cocaine and heroin user.

    Who hates marijuana. Don’t know any facts.

    Who’s just there to fight, mix things up, until no one solves anything and everyones confused.

    This is the reason legalization won’t happen, theres way to many irresponsible users, who take marijuana as a childs game.

    And under the influence of pot, you need proper judgement.
    Or you will react like a 5 year old.

    Just like alcohol.
    I just hope the drunkards getting in car crashes.

    Don’t start smoking pot, just to get in a car crash.
    So they could say it wasn’t their fault. For drinking.
    And it was really somethings fault, people don’t have the right view on.

  50. Anonymous on

    Michael Jackson Live FULL DVD Dangerous TOUR HQ 1992- 1993

    Lets get the facts straight.

    Legalization Marijuana and a controlled substance, only aloud to be smoked by responsible users.

    Legalizing Mary J , Would Be Like Bringing Micheal Jackson back to life like Frosty the snowman.

    Just like driving there should be reality test, on how well you and the marijuana really work together.

    And Class A pot for those who can handle it.
    And Class B for the government officials who say no legalization.

  51. Chris Bennett on

    Jason, its a bit beyond that.
    Re”Of course, Russ could have acknowledged that NORML had a minor part in it, and that it was led by Lee, other activists, etc…but NORML has to trumpet NORML first to keep and gain support”

    But he didn’t, he played it like it was NORML’s gig, that even changing attitudes are due to NORML and I’ve heard generalized comments like this in regards to all areas of progress in the areas of marijuana reform. NORML likes to take credit for it all, but its hard for them to really put there finger down on any of it and lay claim to it, say, in the way someone like Richard Lee can for Prop 19, or Dennis Peron for medical, or Jack Herer for Hemp, as no one would argue any of those points, and none of those people are NORML members.

    I sent Russ some questions for my response to his article:
    “I am writing a response, to your response, and I have a few questions about NORML, these may seem rude, but the reality is, I just don’t know. In Canada, NORML is pretty ineffective, and although i have some knowledge of what is taking place in the US, my knowledge of NORML in that regard is limited.
    1) As NORML has a large number of lawyers in its ranks, has anyone there prepared a Constitutional Challenge to the pot laws? What Legal victories that have affected the law have been won by NORML lawyers. What Constitutional or State Law court challenge are planned for the future? Or does NORML feel that such court battles are no longer needed and the focus should be on legislative politics? (You can summarize your answers together if you want)
    2) In regards to your nifty graph, I can see the beginning and end of the graph, where are we in relation to the 40 years NORML has been aiming for that goal?
    3) What Legislative cannabis victories have NORML Initiated and led the campaign of? (Not things like Prop 19 which came via Richard Lee and all sorts of others helped with)”

    Here is the response I recieved:
    “Who are you and why do I care? If you don’t like NORML, fine. If you want to know what we’re doing and what we’ve done, go to and do some research.”

    Who am I? gee I thought Russ would have figured that out by now. That is the only sort of response that I have ever seen anyone get from NORML to those sort of questions, and that is the answer I will be quoting from NORML’s outreach director in my next article. (I am sure NORML leadership are very pleased at the way there outreach cooridnator’s campaign is bringing in activists to the NORML fold!)

    If any of NORML’s more amicable members would like to repsond to those reasonable questions before my article is written in the next day or two, that would be great. I did try researching it on the NORML site, but couldn’t find anything like that, even the Wikipedia page on NORML, has no list of definable accomplishments from NORML.

    But anyways.. you guys know the story about Jack Herer’s early days and NORML, right? and Jack Frazier’s… who is Jack Frazier? and what did he have to say about Hemp and NORML? For the answers to these and other questions watch for my next article “NORML’s Christmas Campaign on Religious Cannabis Users Continues’.

    It didn’t have to go this way, I tried to throw them a peace bone.

  52. Jason Karimi on

    Reposting from my comment on Chris Bennett’s article, as well as personal messages I’ve sent you through twitter and facebook:

    Russ, state rescheduling…First off, thank you for acknowledging that NORML are not the only ones responsible for getting the 14 states +DC medical laws.

    Here’s an issue I have.

    Why hasn’t NORML, or other activists for that matter, asked the states to take cannabis out of schedule I? Iowa was the first, thanks to Carl Olsen and George McMahon’s case, to attack this on the state level. Why has it been 15 years of medical laws, with schedule I status untouched?

    I would think NORML would be jumping to do that, considering how much effort they put into getting the Francis Young ruling.

  53. Jason Karimi on


    NORML never said Prop 19 was their endeavor. All they said was they supported it, and why they supported it. Of course, Russ could have acknowledged that NORML had a minor part in it, and that it was led by Lee, other activists, etc…but NORML has to trumpet NORML first to keep and gain support, just like ASA or Patients Out of Time, when talking about what initiatives they support, need to keep the focus on their organization.

    You have a point in that the wording was incredibly selfish and chest thumping, but they didn’t take credit for starting it. Please, can all sides of the aisle (myself included) keep their emotions under control a little and just focus on what is best for the community over all?

    Jason Karimi

  54. Hokulani Cheneviere on

    If Norml were serious about legalization, then maybe they should educate the general public more on the religious use of cannabis. Most church going people still see this plant as “devil weed”. If the history of this plant including spiritual use were more illuminated then maybe the legalization machine would gain some serious torque in its drive train and get this baby over the friggin mountain!
    Entities such as Norml and High Times seem to perpetuate the pothead/stoner image which is repulsive to most non-users and plenty of spiritual users as well. The image of this plant is in constant need of a makeover and, yes, a lot of headway has been made but that pesky Jeff Spiccoli image still reeks of stank! I personally bristle at any stoner references made towards me. I am a spiritual user and think the ancient Sufi wisdom of a “little bit of cannabis brings wisdom but too much turns me into a donkey’s butt still rings true.
    Scholars such as Chris Bennett need to put out in front of the general public, NOW. In defense of Roger, he had a ministry to run, with outragous rent and employees to pay. Did he personally profit? Check out his 10 year old, Toyota minivan and the worn out carpet in his tiny condo and tell me he was hauling in da kala$$. He really DID believe what he was doing was protected by the First Ammendment. Was he too naive and TOO optimistic? That can happen when you live in this paradise, (especially Hilo which is in some kind of timewarp as it is.) And, certainly, he was guilty of being a positive thinker. The guy is so irrepressible it boggles everyone’s mind. The man is in a federal facility and sees little of the Honolulu city lights, yet he remains steadfast and faithful. And yeah, many of us in the islands are guilty as charged with being out of the loop on the global negativity thingy.
    What he WAS doing, was educating and enlightening anyone who walked into that ministry. For many it is a profound life changing experience. Imagine if you are a closet cannabis user, racked with guilt for loving da pakalolo, but in real life you are a youth pastor with an evangelical congregational type church. So, Youth pastor learns that cannabis is in the holy annointing oil. How does that impact him/her? For one, he/she no longer has to feel guilty about smoking a spliff before bible study group!
    Where I’m going with this, is that both sides have valid points, and if there was some kind of unity, it might just turn this BIG GREEN Machine in the LEGALIZED direction.

  55. Bud 72 on

    Just keep it above the belt guys please… it’s becoming my opinion that if there was a nuclear “doomsday” clock for the possibility that our movement’s momentum could falter and split into factions, it would be at 5 minutes to midnight dammit!
    I enjoy all the enlightening posts and lively debate and I see a LOT of valid points on BOTH sides but because of all of the crazy ways that former fighters for the cause have suddenly been pitted against each other because of Prop 19 etc… I think it’s wise to not start more divisions. I don’t mean that you should stop posting or speaking your mind but I think if your energies were combined in some way, instead of baiting each other you could be united against a common foe! Such as say, a giant hybrid robot Nixon/Anslinger!!

    I jest, but I do think that exploration of the ways legalization can be achieved is painful but necessary to avoid any “doomsday” scenarios and if we can shine the light of day on issues between these “factions” without creating conflict then we all benefit…

  56. Anonymous on

    So long as there is a rational basis for treating people different and that treatment does not depend on race or invidious discrimination, there’s no equal protection issue. You’d still have to kill the rational basis.

    this is it: the government is allowed to regulate commerce. the different treatment must be arbitrary. What is the conceivable rational basis to treat Irv Rosenfield different than you or me?

    The government wishes to suppress the cannabis industry (it’s doing great, right?). According to the law, marijuana is horrid. The rational basis that is reasonably related to their legitimate state interest of regulating commerce? That’s the health, safety and welfare of the people.

    The law is arbitrary as the health, safety and welfare of the people are placed at risk by cannabis prohibition. There has never existed any set of facts that can justify the criminal brands of felonies, nor the fines and imprisonment that come with such brand, when it comes to 100% pure cannabis.

    The law is nuts, and it treats people that are similarly situated differently. And if you think you should not infer antipathy, you’re dumb. This is not some FCC regulation, this is a felony punishable with life in prison. You can’t be a criminal for hearsay unless it’s the marijuana laws. BULLSHIT.

    learned it all in the Case of US v. Yerbas.

  57. hoam rogh on

    Mr. Christie’s case is distinguishable from the precedent they are relying upon. That compelling interest of enforcing the law will pop up. There is no narrow band of believers doing a fairly esoteric drug. None of them are even doing a drug, well unless they reduce the substance down into butter or hash, I guess.

    The large issue is not the religion one. It is the one that permits an arbitrary idea that has never been supported by facts to be used as a “legitimate” state interest of regulating commerce.

    We really should not infight about religion. We’ve got lots of religious protections after the 1993 law that put the “free exercise” clause back into the 1st amendment. The issue is an arbitrary exertion of government power. It’s due process.

    We need to force the courts to take judicial notice of indisputable scientific fact that create tons of problems for the method in which the feds criminalized pot into prohibition.

    Thanks to NORML, MPP, ASA, and mostly God or whatever force created cannabis as unique a substance as it is, without its unique characteristics the legal argument that will work would not be possible.

    For more, please read the entirely awesome historical fiction: The Case of US v. Yerbas. It’s totally based on a true story and written by one of the finest lawyers at this computer terminal right now.

  58. Chris Campbell on

    Cannabis is 100% safe and 100% beneficial in all its forms… those drugs you mention all end in death and suffering…

    Cannabis is 100% good for the human DNA and should not be associeated with substances that cause spiritual and physical suffering like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine etc.

    Cannabis on the other hand gives spiritual and physical healing with no addictive consequences.

    You wouldn’t bring up heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine etc… in a discussion about ice-berg lettuce, because they are not really associated.

    And niether is cannabis and the man-made drugs you mention… cannabis is a plant, period.

    IMO two totally different subjects.

    heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine etc can and will kill you, whereas cannabis can and will HEAL you.

    Peace to you and yours.

  59. Uncle-Viper on

    That’s a good point that most Americans don’t even know! Also, the number of survivors in the 30+ year Federal program is down to only 4 or 5. Irv Rosenfeld, one of the recipients of 300 cannabis joints monthly, says the feds aren’t even interested in how well it works for him. Rosenfeld has lived longer than anyone else with his type of bone tumours. Everyone with that disease only lives an average of five years, and he’s still here 30 years later.

  60. KxWaal on

    Though I definitely think cannabis should be made legal, and I definitely think NORML is doing a great job, I do agree with one point.
    I feel we should also focus on legalizing heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine etc. – I could even argue that legalizing these drugs is even more important.
    These drugs are far more destructive, and thus the users of these drugs could benefit far more from a drug policy that treats addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal one.
    I feel ensuring these drug addicts have a safe, clean way of maintaining themselves should be a top priority of most people… Those pro-cannabis legalization, but against the rest of the drugs have always confused me.
    Cannabis has the whole “it’s not really that bad for you” thing going for it – But the danger of the use of harder drugs is exactly why addicts should not be stigmatized.
    In the case of both hard and soft drugs, it’s truly disgusting anyone gets imprisoned for these victimless “crimes”.

  61. Chris Bennett on

    ….gee now I have to draft another response, I actually had the kids gloves on last round! Here we go again, another round of NORML vs. Religious cannabis users…. and what a chickenshit title, talk about a Red Herring! I think Russ would find pretty much all religious users support full legalization, its clearly not about one over the other, but Religious Freedom laws do exist, and we are giving those a shot.
    Curious how Richard Lee’s funded Prop 19, becomes a NORML endeavor because like most of the activists and organization in the movement they got behind it.

  62. Anonymous on

    A very cogent counter-rebuttal. Pretty clear that religious exemption for Cannabis is not a realistic probability in the US, and almost certainly Canada too. If such a case were ever to be won, it certainly wouldn’t be by the THC Ministry or associated groups. I could see the possibility of certain Hindu groups getting such an exemption in Canada, but white boys like Chris, who suddenly had an “epiphany” one night while smoking weed on the job, don’t stand much of a chance. Chris just isn’t Indian enough to smoke weed legally. Now if he gets a spray on tan and a turban then maybe. Otherwise, naw, the judges ain’t buying it.

    From Mr. Christie’s activities it is rather obvious that the “church” was formed for one purpose only, to get money out of people one way or another, either by selling them Cannabis or by selling them something a lot easier to produce, worthless cards or kits. I’m surprised he isn’t selling “investment opportunities”. That’s where the big money is. Anybody who will believe a bunch of tripe about a “god” helping them in some way through a human intermediary (like the Pope) will believe that you can give them 300% profit because you own an offshore bank in Antigua. It works every time.

    The THC Ministry and the CoU made the mistake of not being overtly Christian. That’s the rich vein of gullible sheep with fat bankrolls. Make it “the Church of the Holy Anointing of Christ” (with Cannabis oil) and you’ll be in the money. Do a few fake Cannabis induced healings (I…I can walk…wtf?) and they’re in the palm of your hand. Just ask Benny Hinn. As it is, they’re just seen as weirdo groups that are strange and frightening to the cash laden Christians, and just about everybody else for that matter. How’s this for a new church motto; “give your life over to Jesus, starting with our $99 per month holy anointing plan”. Later, promise them a higher ranking in the Army of Light for upgrading to the “premium anointing”, with higher grade anointing oil using genuine Lebanese hash resin just like Jesus. You’re practically in heaven already. How can you put a price on that? Well, the Lord just told me that $199 per month would be pleasing unto the Holy Spirit. Now praise the Lord and light the incense cuz it’s time for the “Hotbox of God” ceremony to commence, everybody into the tent of the offering.

  63. Anonymous on

    A better way to get legalization would be to challenge the federal governments policy of supplying 13 people with this plant (free of charge)… then denying it to the rest of the United States public.

    The same Federal Government that says there is NO medicinal value to marijuana turns right around and GIVES it to 13 others for varied symptoms.

    Under the amendments of the constitution if one person is guaranteed a “right” every other person in the USA is entitled to this same exact right.

    I am not even a lawyer?.?… how come your high class, high paid lawyers don’t concentrate on the obvious?

    Follow the link:

    Because they would be out of a job.

  64. Anonymous on

    Okay,enough already!! you win!! I will make weed legal now. I am sorry for making you so mad.

    Yours truly,
    The Cops

  65. Anonymous on

    legalization will only make police detain people more intense because they think they will own the plant, it will keep police prepared to stun anyone, same as illegal weed, but it will be worse, because they think they own it after legalization….. terrorist paranoid goofs, NORML go home and try in another county! NOBODY CARES if weed is illegal or legal, anyone who already uses marijuana for a long time won’t notice a difference but will be a difference. The new younger cops are trained to treat everyone like existing psychotic manic depressed escape convicts. NO DIFFERENCE, the police will follow you from the weed store and harass you, COPS FANTASY # 1 will be flushed down the toilet, now they will retaliate in their sub conscience minds to treat somebody somewhere like drug addicts, same effect will stay because coke & heroin is not legal!!!!! Cops will treat drug users of weed same as coke-heads, you must legalize all drugs NOW!!!!!! Legal weed doesn’t mean users want to be treated like crackheads because of this LAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!