NORML Throws Religious Cannabis Users to the Lions

[Chris Bennett is a long-time contributor to Cannabis Culture, the former manager of Pot-TV, and the author of three books about the history of cannabis and religion Green Gold the Tree of Life: Marijuana in Magic & Religion, Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible, and Cannabis and the Soma Solution. Roger Christie has also allowed CC to publish his written response to NORML.]

I am writing this piece in response to two articles from noted NORML representatives that open fire on Rev. Roger Christie, founder of the THC Ministry in Hawaii.

Christie had been openly distributing cannabis as a religious sacrament for 10 years with NO opposition from local or state law enforcement. In March of 2010, his ministry was raided as part of multiple DEA actions targeting cannabis churches. He was subsequently arrested and is currently in jail; denied bail by federal authorities. Click here to read a Cannabis Culture interview with Christie from shortly after the raid.

The first of these articles, “NORMLizer – Holy Smokes?”, is by NORML‘s Executive Director Allen St. Pierre and was published by HIGH TIMES online and in print. The second is by Russ Belville, (aka ‘Rad Russ’), whose article “On Religious Use of Cannabis” (also published here) was written in defence of the HIGH TIMES piece, due to the many hostile criticisms of St. Pierre’s assessment garnered in the comments section from supporters of Roger Christie.

Unfortunately, Rad Russ’ comments only serve to dig the hole deeper for NORML on this issue. The comment section on both articles at the time of this writing show a majority against St. Pierre and Belville on this matter.

The idea that representatives of a longstanding and generally respected organization such as NORML have chosen to focus their efforts on denigrating a well-known and loved activist such as Roger Christie, so needlessly and to no benefit, at a time when so much is taking place in the cannabis reform movement, boggles the mind.

It should also be noted that NORML itself has its critics. Many have commented on the organization’s perceived lack of accomplishments over the past 40 years, some saying that by the 80s and 90s NORML had pretty much become just a lawyer referral service that provided clients to lawyers who had no interest in legalization what-so-ever. Groups such as the Marijuana Policy Project grew directly out of the disillusionment of staffers at NORML and it was not until various other groups formed and other individuals took the helm that the cannabis reform movement really started moving.

Steve Bloom of Celebstoner outlined some of these criticisms in his article Why’s Everyone So Pissed Off at NORML?”:

• Bill Maher (NORML Advisory Board): “I’m a little disillusioned with NORML. I’ve always said, one of the reasons there’s been so little progress on the marijuana front is that what the movement needs more than anything is some kick-ass, take-no-prisoners, Karl Rove-type lobbyist, you know? And that just never happens, because it’s all a bunch of stoners.” […]
• Miriam White, a former NORML employee, claims NORML has not played fair with the Yippies over the years, dredging up decades-old animosity between Stroup and the ’60s pranksters, who started the rally movement with smoke-ins in New York and Washington, DC just as Stroup founded the more buttoned-down NORML.?
• Cheech & Chong chooses to co-sponsor their upcoming Get It Legal with the MPP, despite the fact that Tommy Chong is on NORML’s Advisory Board. When asked why, Chong comments: “NORML consists mainly of lawyers who like to get high.”
• The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) decides to partner with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) rather than NORML for their recent conference, setting off an explosive email response from St. Pierre.

California activist Todd McCormick commented in defense of Bill Maher’s statement,

“NORML is about to celebrate (really?) their 39th year in business, but I have to ask my fellow activists: do you really think that 40 years of being in business in a mark of success? I see it as failure; I see it as old stale ideas being tried over and over by the same old men holding onto their egos and little positions of power. The reason MPP is hosting parties in the backyard of one of the founders of NORML is because NORML has not got the organizational capabilities of doing it themselves. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Well, my friends, I think it’s time we demand term limits on the directors and get some fresh ideas and direction in this organization or do we really want to be here in another 38 years wishing NORML was not so normal?”

Now considering this 40-year timeframe, St. Pierre’s advice for those fighting for religious cannabis freedoms in his “NORMLizer – Holy Smokes?” article seems a little ludicrous and definitely hypocritical:

“cannabis consumers, reformers and religious adherents should concentrate their efforts on the much broader reforms that can be achieved by cannabis legalization. In the end, this is a faster, more effective means to achieve genuine religious freedoms, rather than hoping that the current legal system (and body politic) under cannabis prohibition will be rational enough – or fair enough – to respect diverse religious practices consistently.”

Err … Allen, with 40 years and counting, as Todd McCormick has noted, maybe you and NORML are the ones who need to try a new approach instead of launching assaults on those that do?

However, despite these criticisms against NORML, I have to say that in my opinion both Allen St. Pierre and Russ Belville have been amongst the more outstanding NORML activists in recent years, and I was impressed with the work of both throughout the Proposition 19 campaign. I suppose that is why I find this attack on an imprisoned activist so disappointing.

Other activists have suggested the term “attack” is too harsh for what has taken place here at the hands of Rad Russ and St. Pierre, but I think those individuals need to take a closer look at what was written.

Allen St. Pierre:

“The recent federal raid and arrest of THC Ministry founder Roger Christie in Hawaii is the cautionary tale of a questionable business model used to fund public-interest advocacy, as well as the legal jeopardy inherent in trying to game the American criminal-justice system. Christie, a self-styled “minister” from Hawaii, founded the THC Ministry in the 1990s based on the incorrect assumption that citizens organized as a church or religious organization who employ cannabis as a sacrament are exempt from criminal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.”

Belville’s article continues in this vein with another jab at Christie in his comment that Christie and THC Ministries was no more than “opening up hemp companies and selling weed”. This statement, like St. Pierre’s comments that Christie’s ministry was a “business”, is not only untrue but is a particularly unkind and potentially harmful attack on a man in prison. How is an individual like Roger, who provided good clean sacrament to other religious users who at minimal cost through his mission, any more of a “company selling weed” than a dispensary which provides medicinal quality marijuana to patients? How else are bona fide religious users to acquire their sacrament? Could you imagine imagine if someone made an accusation about a cannabis dispensary being a business, and selling cannabis for profit? This would be even worse in a case where the dispensary owner was in jail!

But then, 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?

NORML is one of the largest cannabis reform organizations in the world with well-known activists and a very popular website – sadly, these statements from NORML make it seem to readers that Roger Christie was in this for profit. I have known Roger for almost two decades and I know this is not the case.

Hokulani Cheneviere, a friend of Christie, commented on Allen St. Pierre’s HIGH TIMES article:

“If Roger profited off of cannabis in his ministry, then tell me why he has to use a public defender? His residence is a tiny 2 bedroom one bath condo in a questionable area of Hilo. He drives a ten year old Toyota, had barely $35,000 to his name, of which over $20K of that was a reserve fund for expenses in the ministry. He is actually somewhat embarrassed that he has so little material wealth at age 61. All the money he made was used to help the huge population of below poverty level citizens on this island and to employ a moderate staff, and for overhead, which was considerable. He ran his ministry openly in downtown Hilo for EVERYONE to see with the “GANJANOMICS” banner hanging prominently from the front Hilo Bay facing windows. Did he make some mistakes? He surely did, but certainly not from a motive of greed but to help others and his irrepressible optimism that what he was doing was protected by the first amendment.”

This is Roger’s situation as I know it as well, and I have even donated $500 to Roger’s case knowing he has no funds himself and no way of raising any to fight his case from jail. Roger relies on support from those outside of his prison cell, and both the St. Pierre and Belville pieces will surely help to kill that support.

On top of that, neither article explores the facts of the case – that there is no evidence of any large cash return, or that the amount of marijuana is only 2 pounds spread over charges for a total of 14 defendants, all of whom have been hurt by these comments. Also absent from NORML’s analysis is the fact that Roger Christie has no previous criminal record and has been an activist for 20 years while operating his ministries honestly and with great integrity, right out in the open, and has still been denied bail after 4 attempts. This makes it difficult for the activist to defend himself from the charges and build a case, and to deal with the unfair criticisms of the likes of St. Pierre and Rad Russ.

One of Russ’s first comments in his article reveals his clear bias in the matter:

“I am an out and proud atheist who was raised in a Mormon background (draw your own conclusions).  Now some folks would say my atheism disqualifies me from commenting on religious matters. I say it makes me the perfect neutral observer – I don’t favor any one religion over any other.”

To be clear, religious freedom, a right guaranteed by both the American Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights, is not supposed to be about one religion’s right over another’s – it is supposed to be about the freedom of all religions. Russell’s statement that he is an atheist puts him completely outside of this realm. His views are that secular recreational use, which I am personally not against, is on par with religious use, which I would say is no more true than in the case of medicinal use, and one which there is no clear definition or argument for in either the American Constitution or the Canadian Charter of Rights, as there clearly is in the case of the religious use of cannabis. It is this possibility which apparently most irks Belville, as he posted in a recent prisonhouse response from Roger Christie that: “Supposing that I need to join your ‘God club’ to avoid prison for marijuana use… that’s offensive.”

Russ continues with his misinformed stance stating, “no court in the land is going to recognize a religion’s right to use cannabis”, echoing St. Pierre’s statement that there is no hope for ever achieving a religious exemption, which in the wider USA, is just not true.

We have the example of a Rastafarian living in the unincorporated US territory of Guam, where the Supreme Court ruled that Rastafarians have a religious right to possess marijuana, free from criminal prosecution. A similar victory was achieved by a Rastafarian in Italy

Russ’s next comment is also rather curious coming from a proponent of legalization:

“The reasoning is that government must recognize your religious rights, unless doing so puts an undue burden on government’s enforcement of other laws. For example, suppose you belong to a religion that mandates sacrificing a virgin on the equinox. Obviously you’re not allowed to follow your religion when to do so puts an undue burden on the government’s mandate to prevent homicide.”

This is a statement that sounds similar to one I have heard before in the courts, in the case of the late Rev. Ian Hunter, (who ironically drowned under the influence of DMT, the active chemical in the ayahuasca brew that both Russell and St. Pierre mention in their articles as deserving a religious exemption [not to say I am opposed to the exemption for ayahuasca]). In Hunter’s case the antiquated second-generation Canadian Judge Montague Drake II, who was over 70 years old and presiding over his last case, ruled that although he believed the defendant Ian Hunter was sincere in his beliefs, and although he acknowledged that cannabis had played a role as a sacrament in religion, he could not allow it to go further as it would open the law up to cannibals, who eat people as part of their religion, and Thuggees, who ritually murder people in theirs. But the comparisons of both Drake and Belville are completely unfounded in this matter, as murder and cannibalism require victims whose own rights would be violated by being murdered or consumed. Cannabis use, on the other hand, is a victimless crime. Ian’s case set a good precedent regarding cannabis seeds when he received only a few hundred dollars in fines. It opened up the gates to a slue of Canadian seed sellers afterwards, so he chose not to appeal the final decision.

Belville continues with his uninformed comments, acknowledging that,

“There are slivers of hope, in that the courts have protected some Brazilian church’s use of ayahuasca, a powerful hallucinogen, and some Southwest Native American church’s use of peyote, another powerful hallucinogen.  But in these cases, the courts have figured that […] these are churches and uses that go back through centuries of documented religious use”.

This is wholly untrue – neither the União do Vegetal (UDV) who won the ayahusaca case in the US, or the Native American Church are centuries old churches, and both are relatively new syncretic religions. Although the use of Ayahausca-like preparations is documented to go back centuries, what we consider now to be the UDV church was founded on July 22, 1961 in Porto Velho Rondonia, Brazil by Jose Gabriel da Costa (Mestre Gabriel).

Likewise, peyote has been used for centuries or longer, but in the case of the Native American Church, (NAC) it is another relatively new syncretic religious practice. Quanah Parker is credited as the first big leader of the Native American Church, which was introduced to North American tribes in the 1880s, and was formally incorporated in 1918 in Oklahoma. Ironically, in the case of the UDV, lawyers from a faction of the NAC actually filed an “amicus” or “friend of the court” with the Government against the UDV indigenous use of peyote with the claim that since the UDV was not an indigenous religion of indigenous people, and was instead, like the THC Ministry, multi-ethnic, they should not qualify for the same sort of exemption that the NAC has received for their. This was basically the same argument made by the Government in the case.

In regards to cannabis use: like these churches, Roger’s ministry is a relatively new Church and syncretic faith; however, unlike the sacraments of these churches, the documented use of cannabis for spiritual purposes, goes back not centuries, but at least 5500 years and its use as such has been considerably widespread. A role for its use in this context can be found in the origins of such existing traditions as Taoism, Hinduism and Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism.

Indeed, in regard to Hinduism and Zoroastrianism, recent archeological evidence of a 4500 year old temple in Afghanistan, where evidence of ancient cannabis use was found, indicates that the sacred inebriant known as Haoma in Persia and Soma in India, and which clearly inspired both, was a cannabis preparation. This has been the subject of an upcoming documentary.

It should also be noted that the evidence for this goes far beyond this recent archeological find and a considerable amount of historical information makes the clearest case yet for the identity of this ancient sacrament as cannabis, as I have recently documented in my latest book Cannabis and the Soma Solution.

When one considers the well-known influence of Zoroastrianism on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, combined with increasingly academically accepted role of cannabis in Judaism and Christianity as well as amongst Islamic groups such as the Zoroastrian-influenced Ismaili and certain Sufi groups, it is easier to understand where those seeking religious freedoms for cannabis use are coming from.

In fact, the rediscovery for this particular role of cannabis may well turn out to be the single greatest religious revelation of our generation, and Roger Christie has been riding right at the front of that wave. Moreover, as the basis for our modern drug wars are clearly paralleled with the medieval witch hunt (both are largely based on the concept of Christians vs. the Devil’s Weed), this is, in many ways, already a religious war. Cannabis, as the Tree of Life, is the answer to that paradigm; the plant-based Shamanic origins of modern religion, documented through the history of the cannabis sacraments, is the paradigm shift.

For those who would like to write off such claims as the pipe dreams of the ganja-inspired, they should read through the affidavits of the three respected American Professors who provided statements for my case and who would likely do the same for Roger’s.

Interestingly, much of this historical information regarding cannabis and religion was verified in a report prepared by the Canadian Law and Government Division.

This newly compiled historical information is clearly relevant to these cases. Jocelyn Kula, who was Health Canada’s witness in my own case, noted this in correspondence with Sante Daime members in regards to their tentatively granted exemption for ayahuasca in comparison with other such cases. A Memorandum to the Assistant Deputy Minister, found in documents that my lawyer Kirk Tousaw acquired through the Access to Information Act, states:

“If Health Canada issues this exemption, it will be the first time that an exemption in the public interest will be based on consideration of religious rights. The Department has received only two such requests in the past and both were denied. In the first case the use of Catha edulis forsk (also known as khat) for ceremonial purposes within the Somali community was denied due to the toxic nature of the substance and its uncontrolled and unsupervised use in the community. In the second case, a request for the religious purposes by the Church of the Universe was also denied due to insufficient evidence as to the practices of the alleged religion and the use of the substance as a sacrament.”

In my own case, Jocelyn Kula, under cross examination when she was being called on as a witness for Health Canada (after further researching my file, only bothering to acquire my book after the initial rejection), acknowledged both a historical role for cannabis in various religions as well as my own obvious sincerity of belief.

One of these Professors, Carl Ruck, recently testified in another Canadian case that holds many similarities to the THC Ministry case. Court battles such as these are but one way this rediscovered religious reality will come to be recognized.

Belville sees a further distinction between the case of THC Ministry and the examples of the UDV and NAC in that in the cases of the latter “very few people outside these churches use those drugs for non-religious purposes, (c) it is very easy to identify sincere adherents to the faith, and (d) letting these tiny few people use those drugs is not going to burden the government in its mandate to ban those drugs for the non-religious.”

But this is no standard at all for the definition of what constitutes religious freedom, the fact that many people use cannabis as a sacrament is all the more reason to support cases like Roger’s, not dissuade people from supporting such cases. As well, Russell seems to think reliigous freedom is some how interwined with a number of people, and if it were, what number would be to small, and what to large? Luckily that is not a factor in the definition of religious freedom either. That exemptions for medical marijuana exist in 15 US states and federally in Canada is an example that working exemption processes can be developed. Combined with cannabis’ relative safety compared to these other sacraments alongside our collected knowledge of its long term effects, Russ’s line of reasoning is rather weak.

To his credit, Russ does acknowledge that there is “a case of a Rasta in Guam who the courts implied was probably a bona fide religious user of cannabis and that should be protected, but unfortunately the case centered on whether he could import cannabis into Guam, not whether he could possess and use it while there, and the courts decided against him.”

But Russ continues:

“However, I still say that if any religious use case is going to be won (and excuse me for being blunt) it is not going to be by a white guy from Hawaii who graduated in the Summer of Love who presaged his reverence for cannabis by opening up hemp companies and selling weed. An American court might recognize the religious use of a bona fide Rastafarian, but even then, the decision would be limited to that group.”

The example of Rastafarianism, which originated in the 1930s, is like the UDV and THC Ministries – another case of a 20th century syncretic religion – not some centuries-old continuous and unbroken tradition. Thus, Belville’s statements here – bad enough already for being uninformed and firm predictions on the outcome of cases yet to take place – further expose his true opinion of Roger Christie and the modern spiritual paradigm of the initiates of the “Summer of Love”. Sadly, his comments come off like Eric Cartman’s complaints of “Stupid Hippies”, only much less laughable.

Obviously, although he claims no religious bias in his statements due to his atheism, Rad Russ does demonstrate it in his reference here to those practiced by “Black” Rastafarians, vs. “White” religious users, such as Roger Christie and thousands of others. Why his statements regard one’s ethnicity, when the situation being discussed is religious faith, may make sense to an atheist like Rad Russ, but is lost on this white spiritual user. The ironic thing here is that, historically, cannabis use came relatively late to much of “Black” Africa, and is generally thought to have come in medieval times via Islamic traders (although there is much earlier evidence of Egyptian use), where as sacramental cannabis use amongst “White” people, in this case near modern Ukraine, extends back 5500 years, and the ritual use of cannabis is widely believed to have spread throughout much of the ancient world via Indo-European Scythian groups.

I suppose I am particularly insulted by these disparaging articles not only because of my admiration of Roger Christie and my own spiritual beliefs regarding cannabis as a Reverend in the Church of the Universe, but also due to the fact that in Canada, I currently have a proactive case against the Canadian Government regarding many of these same issues winding its way through the Federal court system.

Having authored and co-authored three large books on this subject and dozens of published articles in other books and magazines, this is a subject I know something about, and one which I have written about for Opposing Views, one of the sites where Russ’s piece was posted, as well as Hightimes which ran the St. Pierre article, (in the December issue, I might add, making it NORML’s Christmas message to the cannabis community!)

However, in my own case, I am not facing jail time or charges, it is all proactive and solely based on the Government’s refusal to grant my request for a religious exemption, which opened things up to a charter challenge based on religious freedom in the Canadian Federal Court system.

From prison, Roger has told me he wished he had pursued a similar avenue in the USA and filed for an exemption from the CSA for religious purposes via this form, and has suggested that future US religious users do the same if they wish to see such a case work its way through the court system unfettered by criminal charges (that make it nearly impossible to get down to the Charter and Constitutional issues which they should be addressing).

Interestingly, both St. Pierre and Belville make a comparison with the ayahuasca based church the UDV, who have won an exemption for their sacrament in the USA, and they both see the basis of it as a reason not to give one for cannabis. I, however, see just the opposite.

Here in Canada, where an exemption for ayahuasca has been granted to the Sante Daime, the government clearly does as well.

While writing this article, I have been in court in my own case over documents received through a freedom of information request on ayahuasca that the courts had allowed, but which the crown has appealed on based on a technicality on how they were entered, as they feel it weakens the government’s reasoning on their case for rejection of my request for a religious exemption. Ironically, the Santa Daime had an historical split in their own organization over the sacramental use of cannabis, as some members had been using it in their ceremonies as ‘Santa Maria’ and others opposed this use.

Belville notes a key difference in these ayahuasca and peyote cases in comparison to the use of cannabis as a sacrament in that the NAC, UDV and Sante Daime, “aren’t using ayahuasca or peyote on a daily basis. Those are reserved for sacred ceremonies that are performed infrequently and within specific settings.” This is true, and it is a difference.

Like many Rastas in Jamaica and Saddhus in India, people like myself, Roger, and others use cannabis on a regular basis. A better comparison in our case would be with the acts of prayer or meditation with the cannabis used as a means to facilitate such intent, and our knowledge of its spiritual history fuelling that effect in many ways.

Religion is about faith and belief. People like me and Roger Christie have even more than that through our research and study – we have knowledge of the spiritual and religious history of cannabis, which gives us the conviction of our ways, and that knowledge is only now beginning to really take root.

The ignorance of such matters on the part of individuals like Russell Belville and Allen St. Pierre make their attacks more understandable and forgivable, and are but a minor hurdle in our very legitimate fight for our religious freedoms and our effort to make way for the Tree of Life.



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  1455. Anonymous on

    Wow….lets get personal.Having supported MMJ since 1967,please keep it in mind ,that a lotta local chapters of Norml,have each put in countless effort,in their neighborhoods,for a long time,with little or no support,but their own,to make the public aware of MMJ.The decisions made in D.C.are thought out for the future.Locally they deal with the now.Please continue to meet and get to know your locals,support ’em,as itz your neighborhood.” Once a council has made a decision.Respect it. If an error has been made,it will become apparent to all in time.” Chief Crazy Horse.

  1456. Jose3 on

    NORML has had 40 years to legalize marijuana and they failed.

    They have become so entwined with the marijuana business, someone started a normlsucks page.

  1457. Anonymous on

    Personally I think it’s appalling that this sort of thing happens in our movement. Activists attacking each other and a lot of it stems from the so-called leaders and freedom fighters.
    In San Diego, we have a few who continually blog, create videos and slide shows designed to discredit and harass others. It has set a trend that we are now seeing everywhere.

    If you see this sort of thing, please remind folks to praise in public and criticize in private.

    We must get back to unity in our community.

  1458. Rev.Daniel on

    No mome support for NORML.Iam not afraid of the lions.Just hypocrites.Keep up the good work Chris for our church.From Church of the universe Skywalker mission of God.

  1459. Ben on

    Hey Chris, I was curious if you could answer these questions.. How has Roger been spending his time since being incarcerated? What’s he reading? Writing? How do you get in contact with him and how is he getting back in touch with you? Could I write him a letter? And if so how would I go about doing so? Big thanks Chris

  1460. Chris Bennett on

    No comparison at all, nowhere do I suggest that religious use is a ‘get out of jail free card’, There are exisitng religous freedom laws, and I think there is an arguement for religous use, if the law is just. Further, I also state at the end, gettign busted and using religion as defense is not the way to change laws, but rather apply for an exemption and take it through the courts carefully.

  1461. Daniel Johnson on

    The title of this article, as a response to a fairly well-reasoned decision not to support religious use articles, reminds me of some freemen you recently schooled on the same lesson: it may be true, but people using the argument are being prosecuted anyway because those truths are not recognized by the courts. It’s not that religion is an invalid reason to use cannabis, it’s just the reality is what it is and the ‘churches’ selling these religion kits are committing cold blooded fraud and people are getting hurt as a result. i

  1462. Rev. Nathan Lester on

    Hello Reverend Unruh,

    ‘They’ probably watch most of us like hawks. It would be our error to think that ‘they’ don’t.

    I believe one could reason that ‘they’ have and are holding this peaceful, kind, and loving man without bail, before being found guilty by a jury of his peers, as an attempt to silence him. To look at Rogers history, any reasonable person can see he posses no threat to the community. He has been a benefit to society, a true blessing. The Ministry was raided in March of this year. No arrests were made, no orders to cease and desist were given. It was not until after his return home from Colorado that ‘they’ arrested him and 13 others. I think one could reason that ‘they’ don’t want this simple truth to spread to the masses.

    To simply answer your question, yes I believe one could come to that conclusion. It is harder to spread the word from behind bars.

    Much love and respect,

  1463. Reverend Unruh on


    ‘They’ watch me like a hawk.

    I was planning to visit Roger as a sabbatical for some training, and he had been doing a lot of religious outreach in Colorado, how much much of his incarceration and denying him bail do you think is to prevent that sort of thing?

  1464. Reverend Unruh on

    The Rapture is scheduled for May 21, 2011. Bong Hits For Jesus! Be there or be square.

    I know Russ doesn’t believe we have a religion, but that is no reason for us not to practice it. Some people don’t believe a thing exists until they see it for themselves. We just have to show them we are for real. One way to do that is have public events and religious ceremonies.

    I will be putting together a cook book called “Rapture Ready Recipes” for it, so if you have a good one you want included, contact me. I’m going to have to develop a recipe to turn water into wine and I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I have a degree in Food Science from Cal Poly, SLO. I can’t wait to use it industrially. I figure once my religion is recognized, we can go into production and international distribution with communion wafers.

    I call that an action plan for solutions, but hey, the Tea Party was also my idea. I like starting things.

  1465. Reverend Unruh on

    They said that my religious freedom was a “fools errand”.

    Since their attitude has been consistent for the eight years I have been at this, and I was brutally raped, I think I can rightfully accuse them of conspiracy to commit torture.

    And unlike Roger, I will never give the cops the opportunity to arrest me.

  1466. Reverend Unruh on

    ” But then it should be noted most of the examples given by Russ about them not working, are not from people who used them, or even members of THC Ministries. ”

    This is where Russ crossed the line.

    Once he started reporting false facts, it was no longer legitimate. It is propaganda and Roger now has a right to sue him and NORML for slander and defamation of character. I hope he does.

    What I can’t understand is how NORML let that get past their legal department.

  1467. Reverend Unruh on

    I swear Chris, he sounds just like my Dad – on a good day. I can’t wait until he is released.

  1468. Reverend Unruh on

    Sometimes it is proving that the law is wrong.

    By your argument Rosa Parks should never have sat anywhere but the back of the bus, because THAT WAS THE LAW. And didn’t she get arrested?

    You are telling us not to strive for our equal rights, to go sit in the back of the bus and shut up. My answer to that?

    No, I don’t think so. I want and expect equal rights.

  1469. Reverend Unruh on

    Roger was willing to go against the beast to defend his religion, his church, his people. He read the basic law and he knew he was right, just as I did. I know he tried to get legal help because I looked into it.

    I think to now hold a minor error against him when lawyers were unwilling to defend his basic human rights is a bit much. We know how the legal system works, it crushes us. The only way for us to be safe of it is to avoid it entirely.

    Roger is too big of a man for that. Like a St George the Dragon slayer, he saw where he was needed and he went for it.

    I think he is a hero. In fact I want to know his shirt size. I want to start sewing vestments. I think he should be dressed as well as the pope. I’ve been noticing, the pope has nice duds, hats. We can do them in green, then when they meet, it will look like Christmas.

  1470. Reverend Unruh on

    ” To the fundamentalists, the notion that Moses and the Prophets and Jesus may have used cannabis may seem scandalous, even blasphemous, but only if they are unwilling rethink their views of cannabis. ”

    I think you just summed up Russ.

  1471. Reverend Unruh on

    I’d really like to see that list too. I have only been involved for eight years, but I did a lot of reading. I don’t remember any …

  1472. Reverend Unruh on

    The Christians and Jews have their holy wine, cannabis is safer than alcohol.

    You tell me why their religious sacrament is respected and mine is not. Is it because mine is smoked?

    I know why, actually. It is a historical fact in our country that the Native American religion has been systematically disappeared per the Doctrine of Discovery in order to take our land and make slaves of us. Nothing about that has changed in 500 years, only the tactics change. The murderous intent is a constant.

    OK, I can call you on that.

    “Black Elk Speaks” look up the prophesy about White Buffalo Woman. Here, I know you are a lazy pothead, I will do it for you,

  1473. Reverend Unruh on

    Have you ever heard of the Discordian religion?

    You might want to pay attention, I am a Discordian witch. I toss those little golden apples out there whenever I feel like it and boy oh boy, do they make a difference. Here is a reference I suggest you check out,

    Maybe we will make a religious scholar of you yet.

    I have a question about your hatred of religion, in the faith you grew up in, do they water-board little kids to make true believers of them? I can see why that would cause a negative reaction – and such true believers as I see in the Mormons. It is like the more violent and repressive a religion is, the more equally oppressive against all religion are it’s exes. They can’t even imagine of comprehend people like me. We just don’t exist in their universe.

    I have already been through all this with my own husband, he was raised a Lutheran, but married a Deadhead. I still have his “Tree of Life” religion card from the 70’s. He reverted back again. I don’t know what he is now, atheist I guess.

  1474. Reverend Unruh on

    I suggest we refer to the actual language of the law.

    My understanding is they have so far limited rulings to the first half (establishment) of the two part statement regarding the freedom of religion.

    Amendment I

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

    By refusing to rule on the second part (free exercise) and by refusing to bring the issue to court, they have very effectively conspired to discriminate against us for our religion. There is no way they can legally prohibit pot smoking when it is clearly the free exercise of our religion, so their argument is reduced to claims that our various religions don’t exist. A position that is clearly divorced from reality.

    I think if we dig deep into the people in the cannabis community who actually do conspire against us like this, we will find they all have two things in common; they don’t respect our religious freedom or beliefs, and they are making money off of prohibition.

    These are the worst kind of friends to have because they’ll want to be involved in everything and make a big show of being helpful, while they quietly stab you in the back every single time. And they know how to do it to, being nicely placed on the inside.

    Or in this case not so quietly anymore, which I chalk up to their desperation. We are finally winning. Our forty years of wandering in the desert is almost over.

    If Russ doesn’t agree that cannabis prohibition is based on religious and racial prejudice, then there are a few things he needs to explain to me. Like if the Rastafarian religion is OK for black people, then why are so many black people being jailed for pot? And Mexicans, while rich white guys mostly don’t even get arrested?

    Could that be a religious prejudice? Because it sure looks like it to me. Russ is basically telling us that since he doesn’t believe in our religion, the US court doesn’t have to either. If that isn’t a white-man attitude, I sure would like to know what it is. I find it a stunningly corrupt position for a lawyer to take. Don’t they swear an oath to uphold the constitution? If not, we’ll need to correct that. I think white guys making money off of creating misery for ignorant dark people is a pretty nasty business practice we need to quit.

    When it goes to the extremes we have seen in our drug war, I think it is quite safe to call it a conspiracy to commit torture.

    I just don’t believe they don’t see it either. I think it is perfectly deliberate.

  1475. Reverend Unruh on

    Well then Russ you should be more than familiar with my sad story.

    Tell me, if you were an animal what would you be? A skunk, a scorpion, some kind of poisonous snake? I’m just curious how you see yourself fitting into our community.

  1476. Reverend Unruh on

    That was beautiful, thank you.

    I thought you might like this song,
    I find it nourishing.

    Robby Romero “Prayer Song” Music Video

  1477. Ben on

    Give thanks for shining some light on this topic, Nate, big up

  1478. Rev. Nathan Lester on

    Hello brother, (if you don’t mind me calling you brother, by all means no disrespect)

    Allow me to introduce myself. I am Rev. Nathan Lester of THC Ministry Ohio. Address me as you will, most call me Nate (if not brother).

    I would like to thank you for all you have done. Bless you, my friend. I have not read your first book, but I own your second and third. I have had the pleasure of reading several of your articles. Thank you for bringing this history back into the light for the masses. Keep up the good work.

    I was just recently informed of the articles by NORML criticizing Roger and the religious use of cannabis. Thank you for coming to his aid. I too, will soon join the discussions.

    I am interested in your current case. It sounds similar as to what I had to do in Ohio to become state licensed as a Cannabis Minister. I applied for a license to solemnize marriages with a letter of good standing from Roger. The State denied me in writing. I wanted to challenge the State, but couldn’t afford an attorney. I contacted several lawyers from the NORML list of legal advisers, to no avail. Until one day I received a call from Cher Neufer, founder of the Ohio chapter of NORML and current treasurer. She was extremely interested in my case. She was not to familiar with the religious use, but seen how my religious rights were being denied/violated. She informed me that an attorney she worked with was interested and that he would be contacting me soon.

    Moments after Cher and I got off the phone I received a call from Geoff Korff, a NORML attorney. After discussing all the details, he agreed that there was a case. He admitted that nothing like this has ever been done before, and was curious to see how it would play out in court. He didn’t doubt my sincerity, and agreed to represent me “pro bono”.

    There is no official form to file for a grievance of this kind, so we decided to draft a letter stating the claims against the State. One was sent to the Secretary of State, the License Administrator, and the Attorney General. If they did not respond within seven days, we were going to take more aggressive action by filing a suit in Federal Court against them using Title 18 USC section 241 and 242.

    The Stated decided to issue my license, instead of going to court. I believe that once they knew I was serious, they didn’t want to risk setting a precedent in Federal Court.

    Also, there was a recent Utah Court decision for a NAC member concerning a pipe with cannabis resin. The NAC member claimed it was religious and that cannabis is a sacrament. The judge dismissed the charges.

    State of Utah vs. Jeff Gardner, CASE NUMBER 095002782

    All the best to you and yours,
    With much love and respect,

  1479. Anonymous on

    the dropped copy’s on these articles are just thrown in like a Christians, Jehovah Witness lovers collection plate toss. SKIP the info, drop your comment! Thats what is happening, who’s obsessed now? Jack Herer is Dead, gone to hell if Christians like it. What do they think he deserves heaven or hell? Black Sabbath (Dio) – Heaven or Hell album, Angel smoking a cigarette on the cover! BLACK SABBATH RULES….. SWEET LEAF, WAR PIGS, PARANOID!!!!!!!!!

  1480. 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

  1481. Chris Bennett on

    Funny thing is, that some of those snake medicines contained cannabis, and they actually worked…..

  1482. Jason Karimi on

    Still doesn’t answer my question. Why has NORML, and other activists in medical states, taken so long to start attacking state scheduling inaccuracies? I would like to see Russ answer this question.

    This is not meant to further the stupid animosity and tensions in the community. This is an emotional and personal problem for most of us. I am simply trying to further discussion for the sake of understanding, and furthering the cause, so before I get an Anon yelling at me for my “ignorance,” just answer the question, and move on.

    After the success here in Iowa, I will be extremely embarassed if every single state around the nation with a medical bill and schedule 1 status does not figure out that they need to sue the state for the inaccuracy. Then, and only then, can we go after the feds inaccuracies. The State AG will have to sue the Federal government once the state scheduling inaccuracy is fixed. Gonzalez v Oregon says that the states lead the way under the CSA. So, do the work, and quit blogging about how terrible Michelle Leonhart is. That’s nothing but a distraction, until you have a decent strategy to force her to tell the truth.

  1483. KxWaal on

    All this in-fighting is ridiculous – We’re all on the same team!!
    Are we just collectively feeling bitter after prop 19 or something?

  1484. Andi Cardiff on

    I’d be hard pressed to believe that the “Religious” exemption would go anywhere in a court of law. After the absolute twisting of the law our government currently uses not to even discuss cannabis openly and the avenues they have pursued to shut down any positive information on the subject, I’d say the chances of an acquittal in any form are nil.
    As for these charlatans who are hawking their wares to a gullible public who would think that “RELIGION” is their ticket to legal use, their fate should be in a cell for perpetrating a fraud. I wouldn’t buy Chris Bennett’s book or Roger Christies legal defense kit with George W. Bushes money. Only the desperate would sink to such non-sense. Every movement has leeches, these two are none better than the patent medicine man who’s snake oil will cure what ails you.

    Here’s to a more sensible path to legalization for all of us.

  1485. Chris Bennett on

    Hard to understand how the Government can say no medical use, yet they hold this patent:
    US Patent 6630507 – Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants
    Abstract – Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidoil, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention. A particular disclosed class of cannabinoids useful as neuroprotective antioxidants is formula (I) wherein the R group is independently selected from the group consisting of H, CH3, and COCH3. ##STR1##

  1486. Jason Karimi (jsnsoc8) on

    Thank you Nancy for posting your response to the obvious logical fallacies. I was going to post a reply but figured you would do a better job. You did.

    Russ, I know you’re busy, but I’m looking forward to your reply to Nancy’s points, as well as you’re reply to my question about why NORML and the majority of the states with medical bills, have not attacked state scheduling. The scheduling, and lack of attempt to reschedule, are logically confusing, as well. Please respond. All I’m trying to do is encourage the cannabis activists out there to further the attempts to reschedule cannabis as it’s one of the biggest lies being perpetuated out there…that cannabis has no medical use whatsoever.


    Jason Karimi

  1487. Avraam Jack Dectis on

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

  1488. Ben on

    big thanks to Chris for sending these messages from Roger. thanks for keeping us informed, hoping they will let him out soon!

  1489. Chris Bennett on

    Hi Chris,

    Aloha. Thanks for writing to me that this episode is nearing, or is at an end. Looks like you ended with your integrity intact and made a peace offering. Good on ya.

    For the spiritually-minded I understand that the ultimate war is always the one within. ‘Treating others as we want to be treated’ is one of the oldest, simplist and most effective methods of living in integrity, ending the war within and moving-on in harmony with others like Allen and Rus.

    With love and respect, Roger

  1490. Rev. Nancy on

    Russ, I posted a reply in what I thought was the right spot. It wasn’t the right spot. Scroll down a bit…

  1491. Rev. Nancy on

    Russell, you need not wait for a personal or court visit from the Creator. I have been determined to be “sincere and religious” by the 3rd Circuit Court in Hawaii. Since you set such store in Babylon courts, that should suffice. What evidence did I present? A 200 page affidavit. It was sufficient for the court. Do you want a copy? I’m a pauper, so you’ll have to spring for the printing cost, although an abbreviated version is posted: .

    Brah, if you wanted to target a religious person, you really should have picked on someone else; I’m prepared. You can also label me as a former NORML supporter. I was the faculty advisor for NORML’s University of Arkansas chapter until I moved.

    You also have an incomplete understanding of logic, and yes, I am qualified to determine that. (I was actually MATHEMATICS faculty)

    Your corollaries: (I corrected the grammatical error; corollary is singular but you listed three.)

    1) if you have a medical issue that cannabis relieves, you should be free;
    (Not implied by my comment, although true)

    2) if you have a religious belief that compels cannabis use, you should be free;
    (This is the actual theorem, not a corollary, but also true)

    3) if you just like to smoke pot like I do, you should go to jail.
    (Not implied by my writing and NOT TRUE)

    If I were grading this, I would give you a D-. 5 points off for grammar, 10 for each logical error. The D grade is a gift; if not for the fact that you obviously put some effort into it, it clearly would be a failing paper.

    So I will try to explain a bit more carefully.

    Your understanding seems to be that we are saying “ONLY those who use marijuana spiritually or medically should be free,” while what we are ACTUALLY saying is “Those who use marijuana spiritually or medically should be free,” We do not claim that we are the only ones; we are merely claiming that our First Amendment (and inalienable) rights are being violated.

    Neither I nor any other person in United Cannabis Ministries has ever claimed that others not in our churches should be prosecuted. In fact, I do not know a single member of my church (Sacred Truth Mission) or any other cannabis congregation that believes that users who are not sick or religious should be prosecuted. That was invented by you, to distract from the fact that NORML is failing to support us, the spiritual users of cannabis.

    I regularly go to court with people charged with marijuana crimes. Spiritual users, medical users, recreational users, I support them all. (Sacred Truth Mission does not proselytize so I don’t try to convert them) For you to assume that I do not support recreational users is not only offensive, it’s also dead wrong.

    And, for the sake of all that is sacred, will you PLEASE quit comparing those who use marijuana in church with murderers and child molesters? That line of thought is disgusting enough coming from a prosecutor! Cannabis NEVER HURT ANYONE! The correct legal standard is strict scrutiny:

    In order to burden a sincere religious practice, the government must
    1. Demonstrate a COMPELLING government interest (Such as avoiding child abuse, or some other threat to public health and safety.)
    2. Show that this act (arrest for example) is the least restrictive means of serving that interest.

    The governmental interest protecting traditional marriage has been determined to be a compelling interest. Personally, I find this traditional marriage business extreme, but that’s why FLDS loses. A marriage license is a contract with the government. The problems of plural marriage can be easily shown to interact with government; how would IRS re-work income tax forms? What is the definition of a surviving spouse? Who gets benefits? Even the government ignores cohabitation with more than one “spiritual wife,” because the problems only arise when there is the marriage contract.

    None of this applies to my church. We seek no contract with the government; we did not apply for any 501c3 status. Perhaps if a church enters into commerce the government may have an interest; we never engaged in commerce.

    What the person being charged has to do is to show that their beliefs are sincere and religious in nature, and that the government’s act (arrest for example) have burdened the religious practice.

    Rad Russ, I did that! To the satisfaction of Babylon courts. Is that not enough for you?

    You are correct in one thing: No cannabis user should be prosecuted. No one can wait. You should have access to the pinnacle of evolution, cannabis. I should have access to the Almighty’s greatest gift. And so should Roger Christie.

  1492. Chris Bennett on

    If Russ wants to set up a date and specific time, I’d be glad to come on his show. I loved the Dragonfly broadcasts he had durring Prop 19.

  1493. MIkeyzero on

    Why don’t you visit the NORML show LIVE broadcast some day Chris and discuss this personally with Russ B. He’s got an open call in every M-f after his Regular Live Show. or M-F 4pm EST, 1pm PST.

  1494. country skunk on

    Chris this would make great webtv maybe Russ and you could get together and make the best fucking show on the web. this may be wishful thinking but two of some of the brightest minds in the movement “Russ” and “Chris” could be just what we need to kick start this movement again just like back in the day when Cannabis Culture Magazine was kicking ass and taking names.A lot of people today are not aware that Cannabis Culture Magazine was a pretty powerful Magazine and helping lead the way for what we see today in Medical and Decriminalization in some places if Marc wasn’t busted pot would be legal now at least in Canada

  1495. Chris Bennett on

    For further clarity; the view of my article is not necessarily the view of Cannabis Culture, they posted it the tradition of free press and diverging views. A day or two prior to this Marc Emery stated the following in his prison blog “Since I was …connected on Corrlinks yesterday, I have read many of the articles from the CC website Jeremiah emailed me, and Russ Bellville’s “10 Lessons from Prop 19’s Defeat” is terrific. Russ Bellville is a great writer and a genuine treasure for our movement. All his writings are exceptional insights and I do hope CC continues to carry the work he writes for NORML.”
    And its hard for me to be to critical of Russ and Allen St. Pierre, they are great activist, doing great work and if anything, this debate has helped Roger’s case and brought the many other important issues beyond the “kits” to the forefront.

  1496. Chris Bennett on

    warning people about kits that had not been available for months by the time they wrote the article was NORML’s main problem? I have a ganja farm in a swamp you might be interested in buying.
    My article dealt with the bulk of both NORML articles and focussed on the same issues that have irked som many here.

  1497. Chris Bennett on

    Actually not posting this article, would have made them more like Fox News.

  1498. Chris Bennett on

    and you are quite clearly in the minority with that opinion.

  1499. Chris Bennett on

    Actually, you do not-get-it. Most of the people who posted, however, do.

  1500. Anonymous on

    You must excuse me for my previous three rude comments.

    But we live in a world where everyone runs in a crowd to see whats happening, when something goes wrong.

    I just hope my words don’t scare people to the limits of saying. GODZILLA!

    But honestly none of that matters. Ever so often I wish I can change the word with my words, as every politian has failed to do!

    Expescially after recession, one after another line of employment, has gone bankrupt or out of business.

    Theres either no jobs for the youth of today.
    Or it’s to the point, no one will give you one.
    Then you get desperate, in hoping for change.

    With year after year passing expecting change.
    When the change what was suppose to come, has changed into a who can give the worst looks to each other.

    Like 75% of youth today, have no job.
    Most of those youth die from cigarettes, alcohol.
    In rare cases it’s death by lethal drugs.

    And with all the pollution and cigarettes, alot! of youth grow up with breathing problems.
    Which lead to smoking marijuana.
    Yet the government makes false accusations, and more bands on disiplined youth than ever.
    To the point children of today are forced into that dark zone, where people can’t reach them.

  1501. Anonymous on

    Any of these careless fools, in comments talking shit!

    Would get shot, stabbed , or beat up.

    In any ghetto in Ontario. Half the population would look at you like they wanna kill you, just for talking about legalization bull-shit.

    Sincerely, It’s the truth.

    Honestly go home with your wives, retire from marijuana.
    Stay in home for the cold winter, where you belong.

    And leave smoking pot to every recreational user who got the balls to get caught, and the balls to go to war. With everyone in North America.

    Because everyone in North America is starting to look like a cop, if you been smoking 5-10 years.

  1502. Anonymous on

    I tell you!
    This site helps no one.

    All just a bunch of rich f-ing mummies, with way to much money, way to much time. Thats why Emerys doing time.

    You people failed at over growing at type of government.

    I know all you people doing blogs and videos for this site.
    Has way to much money, and can get it legally.
    And can die happy without legalization.

    Like the way America kills Muslims in the middle east.

    But that been going on since 1988. Nothing changed.

    Except racism, is used by news channels, CC. In a nice way these days.
    To say slavery still exist.
    Recession is just a start to slavery, and dieing for salarys.
    Right around the corner.

  1503. Anonymous on

    Fighting for marijuana legalization, is as hard as being a drug dealer.
    Because we all know legalization isn’t happening.
    The government watches people die with smiles on their filthy rich rotten faces.

    But legalization is like the life of a drug dealer, moving very slow.

    I wouldn’t be surprised, if Stephen Harper, Bush, Obama. Secretly pay people to have grow-ops. So they can smoke, while the whole world go to hell.

    And we all know, the government’s slogan for marijuana and cigarettes. You can get caught for marijuana, but since the government don’t care, you can smoke your life away with cigarettes.
    These days they even put smoking warnings from Health Canada on cigarettes.
    Just to say you can die and they didnt do it.

    Next the army might selling firearms across the globe. And let the whole world shoot each other, then say they didnt do it.

    It happens everyday in the middle east. The news channel don’t care what happens, they celebrate the real horror in life. Like death but never solve anything. Kind of like this site.

  1504. Jason Karimi on

    What year did Oregon first initiate this? Was it brought about by NORML, the ASA…who? And did it pass the legislature by a vote of popularity first, or did a group of medical experts rule on it first? And you are aware that Iowa’s BOP voted unanimously to reschedule on February 17, and Oregon only did so on July 16?

    My point is not to attack NORML, but to ask why NORML has a right to criticize other people’s approaches. In the end, what good came about from St. Pierre’s article?

    From a July 16 tokeofthetown article:

    “So far, only four states — Alaska, Iowa, Montana, and Tennessee — along with the District of Columbia, have classified marijuana as a therapeutic substance. But there seems to be a strong trend towards changing that. ”

    Why has it been 14 years since Prop 215, and still no rescheduling in Cali and the majority of the states with medical bills?

    You do not get to Anonymously “invalidate my ignorant opinion,” just because you are angry and irrationally defending NORML’s lack of work on this issue. Sorry if you don’t like the way it sounds. Just answer the question. Smoke a bowl first if you need to.

    Jason Karimi (I post my name)

  1505. Anonymous on

    It seems convenient that the main issue was ignored, as that was their only problem, and any other problems are being created by Cannabis Culture.

  1506. Anonymous on

    You asking me? My answer is, “you, you are the moron.” Cannabis Culture was better before this (which makes them similar to Fox for now).

  1507. Anonymous on

    I am not a troll by any measure. I am also not a cop. You are likely trying to divert the attention away from yourself. It is fine to question them, but when you realize you are wrong it is time to stop. I believe Cannabis Culture is wrong here.

  1508. Anonymous on

    Ugh… You just don’t get it.

  1509. Anonymous on

    Excellent post.

  1510. Pastor Ray in Cambodia on

    We love our enemies and speak well of them… I apologized to Allen for wanting to BITCH slap him,and calling him a clown. Radical Russ is fantastic,so we want him on THC Ministry Hour radio…Dec 29th is reserved for his appearance…yeah they diss us 2-3 times and never let us defend ourselves on the first hour that gets 5,000 podcast playbacks. The second hour live call-in is 200 tops…

    Paul Stanford is working on compromise..he’ll appear Dec 22nd,after KUSH CON Denver.ONELOVE

  1511. Chris Bennett on

    I want to be perfectly clear about something, I support NORML, I think they do good work, I think the movement needs people like Russ Belville and Allen St. Pierre, and that they make excellent represenatves for us besides this one infraction, and I think this thing has gone to far. Let us not denegrate each other any longer.
    Peace Out.

  1512. Anonymous on

    I don’t believe that NORML has posted anything about this on any of their websites, I’ve seen nothing like that anywhere (not even on their Facebook page). NORML is by no means attacking Roger Christie, as they have stated several times that they support him (as well as the religious use of cannabis), and rather are simply trying to correct an error in judgement (with regards to their disclaimer on their website) that Roger himself has agreed needs to be fixed. Roger has told his friend to put the disclaimer “back up” on the website, and this shows that Roger agrees with NORML that there should have been a cautionary disclaimer for people to see as a warning. NORML supports the religious (or spiritual) use of cannabis, but I cannot speak for their timing in this matter. I do not know why they didn’t act on this earlier, and chose only to point this out after Roger got into trouble with the law. Perhaps it is precisely that trouble that they are trying to avoid for others, and this brought it to the attention of the people at NORML as well.

  1513. Chris Bennett on

    No they said much more than that, and that is what has angered so many. I didn’t even address the kit issue in my article, I addressed the other issues raised.

  1514. Chris Bennett on

    Great links Russ, and clearly NORML provides a number of valuable web resources.

  1515. Anonymous on

    Roger admitted himself that there should have (and needed to be) a disclaimer up on his site, and that is really the only problem NORML really even had.

  1516. Chris Bennett on

    From Roger
    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!

  1517. Chris Bennett on

    Brandon, don’t be sad there are people like Bill Maher, Tommy Chong and the DPA, be Happy!

  1518. Chris Bennett on

    Jeff, no doubt tempers have flared, and things have been said on both sides of this that have been hurtful. I am sorry if you felt your own integrity maligned by anything I posted, and I know there are many great people involved with NORML. Legalization is a goal that I am sure all spiritual users of cannabis wish to see attained and that many work towards. But there are existing laws regarding religious freedom, in many countries, and there has been some legal decisions that favoured spiritual users of cannabis, and this is what my own article addressed. Here in Canada Medical cannabis was won through the courts, not through the type of legislative politics you are talking about and NORML has spent 40 years trying to actualize, an effort which we all support. A victory in this realm of Freedom of Religion is another brick taking down from the wall of prohibition, and I do not think it is productive for NORML to dissuade people from that, although i can understand warning them about the pitfalls involved and dissuading them from putting value into the forementioend kits (but that is really a side issue, as Roger was in jail, and the kits no longer available months before either article came out). But statement’s like Russ’ that those who seek to enact their first ammendment rights to religious freedom are hippies on a “fool’s errand” and comments like “Supposing that I need to join your “God club” to avoid prison for marijuana use… that’s offensive” do not bode well for NORML.

    I can not disagree that Roger’s kits were overly optimistic and potentialy gave some a false sense of security, but that is for Roger to defend, and I have posted his comments from prison in that regard here and elsewhere. But then it should be noted most of the examples given by Russ about them not working, are not from people who used them, or even members of THC Ministries. Roger’s site has all sorts of testimonials from people who found them effective in dealing with some levels of authority, and Roger himself did believe they worked. But clearly, Roger is no lawyer, and I am not disagreeing with that aspect of the criticisms given by NORML, nor can I defend that activity.

    The more important thing about those cases cited by Russ, is that all those people still use cannabis as their religous sacrament despite these harsh persecutions, this in itself is attests to both their sincerity and the fact that their first ammendment rights to religous freedom have been violated. This is a fact NORML should be defending, not denegrating.

  1519. Jeff Steinborn on

    Too many red herrings here to even try to get them in the net. Being one of the predatory lawyers from NORML, I thought you’d like my perspective. Over the course of the year I get dozens if not hundreds of calls from folks who have just been busted for pot. Many come to me through NORML. I talk to all of them without asking for any money for the advice. Many I represent or I assist their public defenders. To find among these callers one who can actually pay me for my time is the exception, rather than the rule. But I, along with about 500 other lawyers on the NORML legal committee, do it anyhow. Maybe we do it for the cause. Maybe we do it because the stories we hear are so devastatingly tragic that we just can’t say “no.” If there are a lot of good paying clients coming out of the NORML pipeline, I haven’t heard about it. But I sure do meet some great folks this way. Over the course of my 30+year association with NORML I know that I have helped many hundreds of folks who would otherwise not have found counsel who understood how to deal with a pot case. Some have paid me and some have not. I think most of the NORML legal committee has had a similar experience. We meet twice a year to exchange the latest techniques to defend the 800,000 victims each year, and to fire up our enthusiasm to keep fighting a war where we are immersed in so much absolutely senseless tragedy. I am proud to be member of the NORML legal committee.

    I don’t know Roger well enough to comment on his program. I am a strong believer in the spiritual aspects of cannabis. When I read over Roger’s package I, too was concerned, that, as with many medical marijuana patients, the protection is illusory. I meet many folks every year who did their best to comply with medical marijuana laws but were still attacked viciously by law enforcement. I was concerned that Roger’s materials were overly optimistic about the current state of the law, and that they invited people to take a much bigger risk than most gentle spiritual people really want to take. But there should be no doubt — the spiritual use of cannabis deserves the same cherished respect as does the medical use. The question is how to best accomplish this. When a veteran warrior says he thinks we might get fewer casualties–even among medical and spiritual users– if we stopped the war entirely, rather than just exempting a few of the potential victims, this is not valid grounds for criticism.

  1520. The Green Collar Worker on

    About the tree of life: There is reason to believe cannabis offers additional spiritual benefits to certain people. Revelation 2:7 (written in red letters) indicates, “… To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.” (NASB).

    People that overcome evil are granted to use cannabis and being granted to use cannabis is better than using the plant without being granted to use it. Being granted to use cannabis opens up all the intended spiritual benefit’s the Ecologician intended for Us to obtain, while withholding them from those who are unworthy and influenced by evil. It may prove to be an intended advantage so We may prevail because if things were even for evil, evil would prevail and that’s not God’s intentions.

    It gets back to the request Christ Jesus makes numerous times (again in red), to love one another (see John 14-16 & 1 John). We can not love someone and cage, persecute or punish them for using what God says is good on the 1st page of the Bible -at the same time. Additionally, Christ Jesus indicates those who love one another are His friends and those who don’t love one another are not His friends.

    One of the important things many Christians miss is that, yes, We may have eternal life but there is more than one kind of eternal life. There is eternal life as Christ Jesus’ friend and eternal life as not a friend of Christ Jesus.

    It is no accident that We are told that God created and said all the plants are good on the 1st page of the Bible. My Father knew that must be sorted out clearly from the beginning.

    Cannabis prohibition is the Biblical root of all problems.

  1521. Chris Bennett on

    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.

    Happy fullmoon!


  1522. Chris Bennett on

    Well i think that if CC publishes a lengthy response from Russell, it should only be on the condition they have me on Russ’ show to discuss this topic, as otherwise it would be unfair and unbalanced.

  1523. Paul DeFelice on

    Hi Chris,

    Good job on defending Rev. Roger Christie and Religious rights in general from NORML’s senseless attacks. I fully agree that “…this is about NORML bashing other people.” It doesn’t look good on NORML and certainly won’t win them any respect or cash donations. NORML should use their time, energy, and what prestige they have to attack prohibitionists not fellow activists.

    “Rad” Russ asks “where, other than cannabis sacrament – do your religions agree?” I would say that Shamanism is where. Research has me convinced that most of the world’s religions have a plant sacrament at their center. That’s because when people ingest certain plants many have an experience of God. For me it was the realization that not only is everything in the Universe connected, it’s conscious! That consciousness is my own personal concept of God. Russ calls it “creation.”

    If Russ requires some science to explain the validity of Shamanism I highly recommend the book The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge by Jeremy Narby. Narby writes “Shamans, meanwhile, claim that the vital principle that animates all living creatures comes from the cosmos and is minded.”


    I’ve been a member of the Church of the Universe since 1994 and was a part owner of Holy Smoke Culture Shop that was designated by the Church as the Holy Smoke Mission of God. I’ve also known Chris Bennett since 1990 and was/am greatly influenced by his research.

    Also, I made my own failed religious defence in 1994:

    Paul DeFelice

    Holy Smoke Culture Shop

  1524. Chris Bennett on

    The first step in activism is coming out of the closet, for all we know you are ‘Rad Russ’ tooting your own horn. Roger Christie’s rights are being violated that should be the core issue for NORML at this moment, not warning people about some kit that has not been available for months now.
    If you were right the majority of opinions on all the sites dealing with this, would be more equally represented. It is not, NORML pissed a lot of people off, and instead of apologizing, they have made things worth and dug a deeper hole.

  1525. Paul Stanford on

    NORML’s most public representatives have decided to launch a public attack in High Times magazine and on NORML’s website against an imprisoned activist who sits in federal custody and is being wrongfully denied bail for a small amount of marijuana. It is dismaying that NORML would choose to focus limited time and resources denigrating its own community and creating schisms instead of building a viable coalition for political change. In picking this ill conceived public battle, NORML has chosen to kick a long-time activist, who happens to be a very good man, while he is down.

    Roger Christie is being held without bail since July 8, 2010 by the federal government in Hawaii for his advocacy for cannabis and its religious use. He is the founder of the THC Ministry, which uses cannabis as a sacrament. Roger is a 61 year old man who has never been arrested before, and now the government has charged him with manufacturing and distributing cannabis to his church members, with no weapons, minors nor violence involved. The federal government claims that this makes him a danger to the community. Roger is one of 14 co-defendants, the Green 14, charged with selling marijuana and arrested with about 2 pounds of cannabis. The feds are holding Roger without bail until his trial in a year. It is amazing how much money and time they put into prosecuting Roger, a 61 year old, first time, non-violent cannabis activist. The federal government tapped 17,000 phone calls, created and have printed 30,000 pages of transcripts, then they used a military jumbo-jet/C-130 to haul 14 people and dozens of police agents the 300 miles from Hilo to Honolulu. The federal government is doing this because Roger is very public. Roger helped organized and get a county/Big Island of Hawaii law passed making marijuana the lowest priority of the Big Island. Roger helped get the Big Island municipal government to reject federal funding for Operation Green Harvest, a 24 year old federal pork project to fly helicopters at low altitude around Hawaii searching for cannabis. Roger’s ministry was located right on the main street on the waterfront in downtown Hilo, Hawaii. So the feds have hauled him to Honolulu, on a different island, and they are holding him without bail.

    I have known Roger Christie for well over 20 years. I first met him when he came to the first North American hemp conference in 1988 in Portland and I let him stay in my house. He is a good, honest man who used the few resources he has worked for to help others. The federal government is holding him without bail, saying that he is a danger to the community. Roger and 14 others were arrested with about one kilo of cannabis, or a little more than 2 pounds of marijuana. Several of the Green 14 co-defendants are homeless people. The day before Roger was imprisoned without bail on July 8th, he performed a wedding at Kalapana, which is what community spiritual practitioners do. I am fortunate to have visited Roger while I was in Hilo helping patients, seeing friends and gawking at the active volcano regularly over the past 5 years. Roger helped his community as he saw best.

    It is outrageous that the federal government is holding Roger under the guise that he is a danger. Roger is a blessing to his community, not a danger.

    It is outrageous that NORML uses its precious time & resources attacking a good man while he is down. It is outrageous NORML uses its resources attacking a person it should support. As a long-time NORML donor and supporter, and the past Washington state director of NORML (1982-84), I disagree with this poor decision. It is sad to see that NORML and its representatives have chosen to emphasize this poorly rationalized schism at all, no less publicly, to the detriment of reform and building a viable coalition.

    Cannabis is the oldest known cultivated crop and produces more food, fuel, fiber and medicine than any other plant per area cultivated. Science verifies that it was an integral part in the prehistoric origins of most of the world’s major religions, as Chris Bennett has documented so well. That NORML would denigrate, ridicule and publicly rebuke Roger Christie and the spiritual significance of cannabis is harmful for our mutual cause.

    Yours truly,
    Paul Stanford

  1526. jeremiah on


    Cannabis Culture would be happy to publish your longer reply. Please send it to me – [email protected]

    Thanks for taking part in the debate; sorry to see it degrade in places to name-calling by some emotional commenters (but lots of it is great).

    Thanks also for all of your great work! In my personal opinion, you are one of the hardest-working and most effective pot activists around and I agree with Marc Emery’s comment in his latest blog that you are “a great writer and a genuine treasure for our movement.”

    Side note: CC supports NORML and will continue to support NORML. All of us here love the work of Allen St. Pierre, Russ Belville, Paul Armentano, and the rest of the NORML team. We also support Roger Christie, Chris Bennett and the rest of the religious/spiritual cannabis community and its fight for recognition in the courts. We are happy to provide a platform for reasoned, respectful debate on this issue.

    I personally hope this discussion will lead to a resolution and not to more conflict. I’m pretty sure we are all working towards the same goals here – there is just a slight disagreement on how to get there. Thanks to everyone for your comments!

  1527. Paul Stanford on

    I have known Roger for well over 20 years. I first met him when he came to the first North American hemp conference in 1988 in Portland and I let him stay in my house. He is a good and honest man who used the few resources he has worked for to help others. The federal government is holding him without bail, saying that he is a danger to the community. Roger and 14 others were arrested with about one kilo of cannabis, or a little more than 2 pounds of marijuana. Several of the Green 14 co-defendants are homeless people. The day before Roger was imprisoned without bail on July 8th, he performed a wedding at Kalapana, which is what community spiritual practitioners do. Roger helped his community as he saw best.

    It is outrageous that the federal government is holding Roger under the guise that he is a danger. Roger is a blessing to his community, not a danger.

    It is outrageous that NORML uses its precious time & resources attacking a good man while he is down. It is outrageous NORML uses its resources attacking a person it should support. As a long-time NORML donor and supporter, and the past Washington state director of NORML, I disagree with this poor decision. It is sad to see that NORML and its representatives have chosen too emphasize poorly rationalized schisms, to the detriment of reform and building a viable coalition.

    Yours truly,
    Paul Stanford

  1528. Chris Bennett on

    er, warning people about Roger’s kits after he was in jail and no longer offering them? No the article was much larger than that and it was an afront to all religious users of cannabis who are fighting for their right to Religious Freedom.
    I don’t have a hate on for NORML, but this is their own self created problem. Ironically it has brought more positive attention to Roger, than he previously had. I have no plans on persuing this beyond this article, unless NORML continues on with more on it.

  1529. Chris Bennett on

    To be fair, Russ, a number of those people on that list are not part of Roger’s ministry, and belong to other cannabis based churches, although we all gather around the Tree of Life, and many of us are in both communication and communion with one and another. The thing i would say is most notable about the people on that list, is that all are still spiritual users of the cannabis sacrament, and like the steadfast Christians of the first few centuries AD who were thrown to the lions for their beliefs, despite the harshest of persecutions, the loss of one’s Liberty, the Loss of one’s belongings, the seperation from one’s loved ones… they have maintained there faith. And that fact right there, is proof enough that their First Ammendment rights to Freedom of Religion, have been violated. That right there is something NORML should be standing behind, and for, not ridiculing with comments of “a fool’s errand” and denegrating a man in jail for his religious beliefs.

  1530. Pete on

    Cannabis Culture is NOTHING like Fox News! You, sir, obviously haven’t read any of the articles here (which include several written by Russ Belville and other NORML people).

    Who is the real “moron”?

  1531. Anonymous on

    Fighting against NORML is not going to get legalization here any quicker, and it won’t get us religious use exemptions any faster either. NORML has done a lot here in America, and their people work hard everyday. They don’t apologize because they are simply trying to warn people of the risks associated with this Roger Christie thing, and there is nothing wrong with that. Roger himself admitted there was supposed to be a disclaimer on his website, and is working to get it put back on there. See? NORML is not wrong here.

  1532. Anonymous on

    This guy is a troll and probably a cop! Cannabis Culture rocks!

    It is not divisive to question NORML, which collects hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from the pot community. It is great to see alternative opinions about these issues. Thank you so much for the work you guys do and keep it up.

    Free Marc Emery! Long live CC!

  1533. Anonymous on

    Now this a very respectable letter. It shows that he acknowledges its “less than 100% effectiveness”, and that there is supposed to be a disclaimer. I support the religious use of cannabis, as it is part of my own spirituality as well, but believe that this disclaimer should be put back up on the website. This is a very respectable letter, and I do hope that Roger is able to beat the system now that he is in it.

  1534. Anonymous on

    If you are going post, please don’t post from a place of ignorance. I like how post against NORML, but then say something stupid like:

    “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.”

    You do realize (for starters) that Oregon has taken cannabis out of schedule 1, and it is currently being rescheduled? By you coming in here posting your ignorance for everyone to see, and then posting your opinion about NORML at the same time, we invalidate your ignorant opinion about NORML by pointing out how you don’t even know the basic facts about your complaint. Moron.

  1535. Anonymous on

    I agree completely, what Cannabis Culture is doing here is disgusting, and moronic. I also am sad because of my respect for Marc Emery, which is being torn apart the more I read these Cannabis Culture writers works…. They need to turn their boat around, because they are not HELPING anything or anyone. Cannabis Culture, get your heads out of your childish asses and get something constructive done, such as: unity in our community towards legalization. You need to start helping, and stop hindering the cannabis community.

    “This place has become the Faux News of the cannabis community, which is sad considering all the respect I have for Marc Emery.”

    That line contains so much accuracy…

  1536. Anonymous on

    NORML is pretty much the main organization that keeps the steam in the cannabis movement here in America. Without them, we’d be left with lesser groups like MPP, or SSDP, which do not have nearly the impact that NORML does. We’d also be stuck with laws crafted like the Arizona medical law, which sucks, and so we need to support NORML to keep the movement going. If we are left with only something like Cannabis Culture MAGAZINE, we are fucked.

  1537. Anonymous on

    You do realize that Roger Christie is in jail right now because his religious use argument is not protecting him, right? That this makes Russ right? Russ isn’t against the religious use of cannabis, but he is saying that it has a good chance of not protecting you (if any chance at all of protecting you in court). Russ is just trying to keep people like Roger out of jail, unlike Roger himself obviously even managed for himself (let alone anyone else).

  1538. Anonymous on

    You do realize that Roger Christie being in jail RIGHT NOW shows that Russ is right? That you cannot win this argument 100% of the time? You are super, super stupid if you cannot see this basic reality that is literally happening right now. There is a real-life example in jail right now that proves that you are wrong, and that Russ is right: You need a disclaimer, because the religious use argument is not going to win very often (if ever)! The proof is SITTING IN JAIL RIGHT NOW, and his name is Roger Christie. See? That is what happens if you are being stupid, you go to jail while claiming something that isn’t being protected right now. Russ is right, and he is just trying to protect people from jail (which Roger Christie is not doing with as much integrity). There is only one person being an adult at the core of this problem, and that is Russ. Everyone from Cannabis Culture are being liars, and trying to twist the truth (which could get a lot of people in trouble with the law)! Listen to Russ if you want the best shot at staying out of jail, follow Roger Christie if you would like to up your chances of going to prison, your choice.

  1539. OGK on

    One big thing I notice from the NORML defenders is that they never mention how their group has been corrupt from the beginning well all you have to do is find the book High in America and you will see what I mean, becauase it looks to me that Keith Stroup the founder of Norml was more interested in sex and money than he was in legalization because after all if he achieved full legalization than he and all his lawyer friends would not be able to make millions of dollars per year handling people like Roger Christi and millions of others busted for a god-given plant, would they? So Stroup narked on Presidnet Jimmy Carter’s drug advisor and on Carter’s pot-smoking children at a time when Carter was ready to leaglize cannabis at the federal level. When Carter heard about this he got so angry that he reversed his legalization favoritism and that was that…the drug war continued from then on, with lots of people busted and lots of money for NORML and their frigging lawyers. Allen PeeAire and Radical Rusty Belville, try to defend what your boy did. The book is totally right on accurate and even Stroup has admitted he narked people out in a hissy fit that just happened to also provide $$$$ for him and his boys. NOrml has always been bullshit and the fact that Beltville and the rest of the Norml defenders don’t have the guts to say sorry for being such assholes is all you need to know. Roger Christie and Chris and Emery have done more for legalization than any of those Norml people ever have or will. Fact!

  1540. Chris Bennett on

    Letters from Roger

    Allen and Russ make some valid points among some others I disagree with, and I respect their search for truth.

    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.

    All the very best to everyone,

    Roger Christie, Founder

    THC Ministry

  1541. Anonymous on

    Wars have always been about property. Land, people, resources, Trade passages, these are the things wars are always and always have been fought over. If you want to make some sense of the illusory world of perception around you, you must first come to grips with the contradiction in yourself of believing Christ smeared cannabis oil all over himself to become Christ while at the same time believing Christians ( followers of Christ ), are universally lumped together against cannabis, the most healing plant. A Christian is someone who wants to be like Jesus, and just because someones public pesona appears loyal to Christandom doesn’t prove they are not holding some other interests higher, namely that of money, personal gain, or the attainment of a higher degree in whatever secret society they might be in. I’d just like to say, I consider myself a Christian ( I’m down with Jesus) , and I smoke cannabis everyday ( I love the sacred blossoms ), yet I don’t consider myself a traiter, and many of my fellow Christians would be suprised to find we’re at war with herb.
    Peace and God Bless.

  1542. PvH on

    “…those who charge for false “get out of jail free” cards for religious cannabis use that has never worked. The guy in Hawaii selling these is scum preying on the ignorant, and I’m glad he was arrested.”

    Dear Ramus,

    Before you are forevermore thoroughly ignored and banished to the realm of schwagg, know that Roger Christie’s so-called “get out of jail free card” has “worked” in the majority of cases where people have presented their documented spiritual regard for Cannabis as a primary argument against arrest.

    Secondly, Reverend Roger (“the guy in Hawaii”) Christie is so real and substantial, that it is impossible for you, the DEA, “Rad”Russ, “PeeAir” or anyone else, to succeed in casting dispersions on his work simply by gassing off.

  1543. Chris Bennett on

    I hope you are right, and yes we are becoming ever more mainstream!

  1544. Jayelle Farmer on

    >Do you really think that is going to happen durring Obama’s watch? or anytime soon?

    Indeed I do, Chris. I believe that the cannabis issue has been politically and mainstreamly? exposed enough to win Gary Johnson the US Presidency in 2012.

  1545. Paul von Hartmann on

    WHAT a waste of time…It is SUCH a shameful, counter-productive mistake to disparage the THC Ministry.

    If it wasn’t WORKING, then the ‘feral government’ wouldn’t be violating due process to find Roger guilty-without-trial! SHUT THE FU, Russ&Peeair, Roger’s accomplishments DWARF any suck-face criticism of his methods. The sheer validity and functional integrity of Roger Christie’s work of the past twenty-five years makes Pierre’s self-stroking essay stupidly self-indulgent and unconscionably obscene. What a twat…

    Roger has KICKED ASS for TEN YEARS! with the truth. THAT’s why he’s being spanked by the dick-less, lying, anti-Constitutional feds.

    By jumping on board the bitchwagon, and casting Roger’s considerable achievements in a disrespectful light (while he’s sequestered in prison, DISALLOWED visitors AND illegally denied bail four times!)) Belville and Pierre have banished themselves to the ‘purgatory’ of mediocrity.

    TOO bad Russ, you were ALMOST “radical.” As it is, by FAILing to act in the interest of national security, by FAILing to honor the First Amendment, and by dismissing a potent FEDERAL legal strategy, that’s been painstakingly constructed over the past three decades by Roger Christie, and sacrificed for by previous generations; for ALL the good you may have done in the past; you’ve suddenly rendered yourself intellectually inconsequential in the larger scope of ultimately compelling rational argument. WHATEVER WORKS IS FAIR in ending Cannabis prohibition!!!! Don’t you get that? Who the hell are you to judge the validity of religious freedom? however Roger chooses to define it?

    Roger Christie is a modern day hero, for his forthright and righteous representation, demonstrated regard for the spiritual legitimacy of the world’s OLDEST global culture. Roger’s success is about WHO HE IS and how he represents one perspective on an infinite CANNABIS SPIRITUALITY, on behalf of ALL of people who feel a spiritual connection to the Cannabis plant, “RELIGIOUS” OR ‘spiritual’ or ‘recreational’ or ‘nutritional’ or ‘industrial ‘or NOT!

    How can you not get that? Love is the limit of law, NOT the other way around. Roger represents the love of the Cannabis plant translated into legal, Constitutionally potent religious terms. The government said “this,” & Roger did “that” in order to comply, codify, legitimize, cooperate… and you don’t support it. Shame on you for all the sorrow perpetuated by divisiveness.

    Others have attempted to invoke a religious defense and failed because they didn’t have the legitimate spiritual foundation, the demonstrated spiritual regard, the holistic comprehension, the dedication and purity of motivation that Roger has — even in prison, ROGER STILL BELIEVES in the power of the truth — the true value of Cannabis — the spiritual legitimacy of Cannabis — the REAL meaning of “every herb bearing seed” the first test of religious freedom. .. Roger’s Ministry opened the doors, and faced-down prohibition in downtown Hilo, everyday! and won for ten years!

    Roger’s effort has been characterized by his enormous courage, unimpeachable sincerity, capable diplomacy and multiple, considerable, successes in giving a legitimate defense to prosecution. NO! It didn’t work in every case as it should have–it just worked in a LOT of cases, where people’s rights were respected by law enforcement!!!!!! How dare anyone minimize the importance of that. Even ONE instance of a person’s rights being honored is reason to respect Roger’s work !

    Roger has given a (quite handsome) human face, high moral integrity, enormous grace, inarguable intellect, functional rationale, and public dignity to the spurious, fraudulent arguments against Cannabis freedom for twenty-five years! Roge has been brave enough to recognize the spiritual dimensions of the world’s oldest global culture while others jaw-boned about piss-ant, self-interested propositions (#19) and superficial statutes. Roger’s work means more than all the bullshit I’ve listened to for the past twenty years, including wading through all the bickering to get to this comment.

    Oh, and by the way — just to set the record straight — NORML SCKS. HOW much money has NORML gotten from people to end prohibition? And how miserably have they failed? And how limited have NORML, MPP, DPA, ASA and all the other well-funded reform groups been, in presenting neutered arguments to end prohibition?

    I am quite frankly DISGUSTED with the mealy-mouth divisiveness of the drug reform movement. Shame on Ethan and Keith and HT and all the rest of the stoner crowd for failing to raise the full force of reason to end this stupid, extinctionistic “debate.”

    How’s this for a clear and proportionately realistic argument of the drug policy situation:

    If we don’t end Cannabis prohibition,
    by this spring (!), then
    we’re ALL going to fucking die!

    Google “global broiling” if you doubt this.

    GET IT — Extinction OR survival? Our choice! You don’t have to be “religious” to understand that. By the way, Russ religious freedom includes the freedom to be an atheist, so you better hope Roger isn’t convicted if you enjoy your unreligious freedom.

    Why haven’t I read a comprehensive argument on NORML’s impotent website? Or DPA’s? Or eMPeePee’s, or ASA’s? Does anyone who knows more than just a little about marijuana doubt that this is true?

    If you still have doubts, then PLEASE! for the sake of your children and mine, GO to and listen to sixty minutes of undiluted truth (See Ken’s broadcast of 11/15/2010). If that isn’t enough to wake you are up then you’re far deader much sooner than you know.

    Oh, and Don’t look to me for amiability and diplomacy while my best friend is in prison. That’s Roger’s forte, not mine.

  1546. Jayelle Farmer on

    Seriously, Chris, I certainly believe that Roger believed in his kits and not for one moment would I think that he was scamming people.

    Nevertheless, dealing with a “product” (i.e. a kit) in the real world requires a realistic approach – and an indemnity statement with the kits would have been a sure winner, had they been given. Anything less appears to be now bringing reproach, which is unfortunate, given the situation of Roger’s being in custody until trial.

    As I said, I wish Roger luck. If he wins his case, he will have succeeded in breaking down another chunk of cannabis prohibition.

  1547. Chris Bennett on

    yes, well, the kits, I didn’t even really aproach in my article, its not my issue, I let Roger respond to that and there is another article on the main page with Roger’s own response. I will say I do not think Roger was doing that as a scam, he believed in them.

  1548. Jayelle Farmer on

    >Mr. Christie sells on his web site a $250 “Sanctuary Kit” and a $50 “Practitioner’s Kit”. He explains these kits demonstrate your religious sincerity and how 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.

    Well, here is the crux of the matter, as I see it. IMHO, a disclaimer should have been given with the above mentioned kits.

    Mr. Christie will now have the opportunity to test his own theory of “defending yourself in court and proving your bona fide religious use.”

    I wish him much luck. I’m for anything that extends the legalisation of cannabis.

  1549. Anonymous on

    Did YOU even read the f’n article?

    This wasn’t just a criticism of Roger Christie. Russ wrote: “seeking recognition of that right in American courts is a fool’s errand.”

    Russ is saying that anyone trying to fight for the religious and spiritual freedom to use cannabis in court is a fool. That is insulting and simply not true! Russ and Allen are poo-pooing alternative methods of activism saying “our way is better”. Why not encourage a multi-pronged approach instead of knocking other methods? After all, it seems to be working for the medical crowd.

    Imagine if Russ wrote “seeking recognition of the medical right to use cannabis in American courts is a fool’s errand.” some years ago?

    Though I am not a religious user, I can see how his comments may have made some people upset.

  1550. Chris Bennett on

    I think you are giving NORML a little too much credit, lots of activists have been involved in the changes you refer to, not just NORML. Which of those laws to NORML write and initiate? if other activists were involved, you can be sure it included many spiritual activists. We are all working towards legalization Russ. This isn’t about NORML being bashed, its about NORML bashing another activist. Nice try on the ole ‘red herring’ bait and switcheroo, though.

  1551. Jayelle Farmer on

    It’s Always Been About Civil Rights – Everything Else is “Use” – and that’s it, in a nutshell.

    You speak well, Russ when you say that the gov doesn’t care whether one believes in God or not – it’s all about civil rights.

    I agree with your statement about medical users – that this can’t wait, but MMJ aside – what exclusions can be legally brought about that would not still continue to convict the so-called “recreational user”?

    None at all. Aside from medical users, no one has any more right to protection, by law, to use cannabis, than anyone else.

    And yes – WE CAN’T WAIT – we want cannabis general legal and we want it ASAP – it’s been TOO LONG already.

  1552. Chris Bennett on

    well, if its thanks “in part” to NORML, then its thanks in part to spiritual users as well, as many are activists. Why you have chose to rain on their parade is another question.

    Re “List NORML’s victories, what so we can play another six-nested-level game of “yes sir!”

    well actually, so I can understand what you are referring to, as although I’ve been a pot activist for 20 years, I can’t think of any ones that NORML can really take anymore than partial credit for. And I am not slagging NORML, but asking.

  1553. Jason Karimi (jsnsoc8) on

    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.

  1554. Chris Bennett on

    How is NORML responsible for those decrim and medical laws, which ones did they write and initiate?
    I really don’t like these “anonymous” sorts who give advice on activism.
    Google my name and cannabis if you want to know about me.

  1555. Chris Bennett on

    No, whoever you are (coming out of the closet is the first step in activism) you are wrong, NORML is spreading discord, with their Christmas message to the movement about Rev. Christie’s ministry depicted it as a weed store exploiting and imagined loophole. That is what this article is reacting to. As well, as St Pierre stated, (and Russ expanded on):
    “”cannabis consumers, reformers and religious adherents should concentrate their efforts on the much broader reforms that can be achieved by cannabis legalization. In the end, this is a faster, more effective means to achieve genuine religious freedoms, rather than hoping that the current legal system (and body politic) under cannabis prohibition will be rational enough – or fair enough – to respect diverse religious practices consistently.”

    I disagree with that view, as do others, and this is also explained in the article for various reasons. And considering NORML has been working to fulfill the latter mandate for 40 years, Allen needs to reasses “faster, more effective”.

  1556. Anonymouscountryskunk on

    role 🙂

  1557. countryskunk on

    Actually Chris was a big part of Cannabis Culture Magazine success in the early days he just disappeared in the last few years but I am sure behind the scenes he still plays a pretty big roll

  1558. Anonymous on

    NORML is responsible for nearly all of the decrim and medical laws throughout the US (often in conjunction with the wonderful MPP). What have you done?

  1559. Anonymous on

    Read the article. Allen St. Pierre says multiple times (as does Radical Russ) that he is not disrespecting religious users, and it is nothing against religious users, but against those who charge for false “get out of jail free” cards for religious cannabis use that has never worked. The guy in Hawaii selling these is scum preying on the ignorant, and I’m glad he was arrested. No one needs to be ripping off and tearing apart our community.

    All this moronic article “author” is doing is sowing discord in a community that really needs unity right now if we are to reach our goals, and over something that isn’t even a real issue. This place has become the Faux News of the cannabis community, which is sad considering all the respect I have for Marc Emery.

  1560. Chris Bennett on

    …well that is the part I disagree with for various reasons and that is plainly laid out in my article, and I also think the way they caragtorized Rev. Christie’s mission and suplying of sacrament to church members, as a ‘store selling weed’ imagine if that language was used by NORML for dispensaries when they are raided, and that is also discussed. I have in part answered these criticisms, by pointing to criticisms of others about NORML. People who live in Grass Houses should not throw Stoners.

  1561. country skunk on

    OK so whats the point? He is telling you again that he agrees with your right to choose Cannabis for what ever reason you want but the courts don’t recognise it as a religion so if you try to use that as a defence you will lose.

  1562. Chris Bennett on

    I support your rights, and I work towards that end. I use cannabis for religious purposes, I have for 20 years, and I have sinscere beliefs about that, there are laws regarding religious freedom that I think i fall under, and there have been exemptions in the past from the scheduled drugs laws, and I want one for my use and I am in court fighting for that.

    But let me be clear… In regards to the sacramental use of cannabis and religious freedom, I would point out the right to cannabis, indeed all plants, cacti and fungi, is a natural right that supersedes even the religious use issue, more akin to our right to air, earth and water – this is about life on earth and indigenous natural relationships. I can say to you with confidence, there is no religious doctrine not transcribed by the hand of man, but no matter what god or goddess one believes in, they should also believe that god created the plants of the earth. Indeed, in the case of the popular belief of our own culture, the Biblical God quite clearly states: “Behold, I have Given you Every Herb Bearing Seed which is Upon the Face of all the Earth” (Genesis 1:29).

  1563. Anonymous on

    The fact of the matter is no man has the right to tell me I do not have the right, as a mature consenting adult to smoke marijuana in any form I choose? No religious reason has any more right then I to smoke marijuana in the name of God, then my choice to smoke marijuana as a mature consenting adult. No politician should have to be lobbied(payed)to allow me as a mature consenting adult to choose to use marijuana at my leisure. The inclusion of marijuana in the same legal structure by the UN as cocaine and heroin is denying my right as a mature consenting adult the right to choose to ingest marijuana instead of the legal access to alcohol or prescription pharmaceuticals who do lobby politicians. It is against both the constitution and the charter of rights for a politician to accept a bribe unless it is payed by a party lobbyist.

  1564. Chris Bennett on

    Oh, he said much more than that, and the article above goes over much of it.

    The Fight for Religious Use of Cannabis
    Opinion by NORML
    (4 Days Ago) in Society / Drug Law
    By “Radical” Russ Belville

    Our Executive Director, Allen St. Pierre, has penned a column for HIGH TIMES examining Roger Christie of the THC Ministry and the fight for recognition of religious use of cannabis. One of my regular readers, a member of Roger’s church, has blasted Allen for “attacking” the church and its leader. I felt I needed to weigh in on the issue.

    First off, full disclosure: I am an out and proud atheist* who was raised in a Mormon background (draw your own conclusions). Now some folks would say my atheism disqualifies me from commenting on religious matters. I say it makes me the perfect neutral observer – I don’t favor any one religion over any other.

    Second, if you believe, as I do, that all adults have a natural right to use cannabis (and, for that matter, any other plants), then you believe that religion can be one of many valid reasons why an adult may choose to use cannabis. Just as health care can be another valid reason. Or a Dave Matthews concert.

    So, yes, I completely believe that you have a religious right to use cannabis. I even believe that the First Amendment of the Constitution protects that right.

    However – seeking recognition of that right in American courts is a fool’s errand.

    As Allen notes, no court in the land is going to recognize a religion’s right to use cannabis. The reasoning is that government must recognize your religious rights, unless doing so puts an undue burden on government’s enforcement of other laws. For example, suppose you belong to a religion that mandates sacrificing a virgin on the equinox. Obviously you’re not allowed to follow your religion when to do so puts an undue burden on the government’s mandate to prevent homicide.

    The government has decided, and courts have affirmed, that they must prevent people from using cannabis. Therefore, you cannot practice your ganja sacrament, because that places an undue burden on government preventing cannabis toking. The courts know the minute they rule that THC Ministry has a legitimate right to use ganja sacrament, there will suddenly be millions of adherents to that church overnight and it would be impossible to determine who’s toking reverently and who’s just toking.

    Yet I am still supportive of fighting the government to recognize religious use of cannabis. There are slivers of hope, in that the courts have protected some Brazilian church’s use of ayahuasca, a powerful hallucinogen, and some Southwest Native American church’s use of peyote, another powerful hallucinogen. But in these cases, the courts have figured that (a) these are churches and uses that go back through centuries of documented religious use, (b) very few people outside these churches use those drugs for non-religious purposes, (c) it is very easy to identify sincere adherents to the faith, and (d) letting these tiny few people use those drugs is not going to burden the government in its mandate to ban those drugs for the non-religious. There is even a case of a Rasta in Guam who the courts implied was probably a bona fide religious user of cannabis and that should be protected, but unfortunately the case centered on whether he could import cannabis into Guam, not whether he could possess and use it while there, and the courts decided against him.

    So to that end, I have no problem with Roger Christie and the THC Ministry. However, I still say that if any religious use case is going to be won (and excuse me for being blunt) it is not going to be by a white guy from Hawaii who graduated in the Summer of Love who presaged his reverence for cannabis by opening up hemp companies and selling weed. An American court might recognize the religious use of a bona fide Rastafarian, but even then, the decision would be limited to that group.

    Even so, a federal case would have to come before the courts to be argued in the first place. As a lawyer friend of mine who is certified to litigate before the Supreme Court told me, “First it would have to be a federal arrest, which we know only 1% of marijuana arrests are. Then it would have to be enough marijuana for the federal cop to press charges and not just confiscate it and give a warning. But it couldn’t be so much that a prosecutor could argue intent to deliver. Finally, and I hate to be crass, but it would have to be a genuine dreadlocked black Rastafarian, preferably from outside the states, to sway a judge that it’s not just a hippie trying to get high. So if you can get me a federal park ranger arresting a black Rastafarian with less than an ounce but more than a joint performing religious use of cannabis in a national park and a prosecutor willing to press that case in federal court, I can get a decision exempting religious use of cannabis… for that guy and the guys and gals like him in that church.”

    I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying that’s the way it is.

    Where I have my issues with Roger Christie and the THC Ministry is in the selling of weed (excuse me, I meant, “freely giving sacrament to members of the church who then proceed to give the church cash donations based on a list that suggests the proper donation per eighth ounce of sacrament that only coincidentally matches the black market prices for weed”) and the selling of $250 “Religious Sanctuary Kits”.

    From the THC Ministry website:

    Minister’s Sanctuary Kit: $250 donation
    The Kit includes: Sanctuary Plaques, ID Cards, Citizen’s Rule Book, 150 page manual to educate and empower a new Cannabis Sacrament Minister, Sacramental Plant tags, THC Minsitry [sic] Cannabis and Religion Guide and more …

    For example, this kit includes a “Letter of Good Standing”, which is the key document to acquire state permission to legally marry people as a “cannabis sacrament” minister.

    Which claims…
    THC Ministry Cannabis and Religion Guide: 130 pages of research, case law, articles and interviews concerning cannabis and religion. Included in the kit are real Motions to Dismiss marijuana charges written by lawyers and used successfully by members of our Ministry.

    In other words, Roger Christie is selling to the naive cannabis consumer for $250 a kit that promises “sanctuary” from “marijuana charges”. Perhaps some of his members have used these motions to dismiss successfully; however, I have reported case after case after case after case after case over the past eighteen months where religious cannabis users are now studying their Bibles behind bars. I could even accept sales of these kits if they came with the disclaimer, “WARNING: US Courts have failed to recognize the First Amendment right to cannabis sacrament. We cannot guarantee your religious use won’t land you in jail.” But without disclaimers, this pitch is reprehensible.
    Another problem I have with the ministry: most religions aren’t based on their sacrament and most religions aren’t taking “donations” for it. You don’t go to the Catholic Mass for the wine sacrament, you go for the ancient traditions, the Bible teaching, and the pew aerobics (though, interestingly enough, during Prohibition you could get a religious exemption for wine). When you donate to the collection plate, it is not “suggested” how much you donate per little-paper-cup-shot of wine you got from the priest.
    Even the Brazilian and Native American churches provide guidance in this concept: they aren’t using ayahuasca or peyote on a daily basis. Those are reserved for sacred ceremonies that are performed infrequently and within specific settings.
    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. If a Rastafarian, a cancer victim, and I all share a joint, we are not a “believer”, a “patient”, and a “criminal”. We are all just human beings with the same inalienable right to use plants for any reason we choose so long as we harm no others doing so. Your health and your religion do not change that joint in any way.
    *I even hate that tag “atheist”. That has such negative framing of “godless amoral unspiritual nihilist who mocks all those of faith”. I use it in the sense of its roots: a = no, theo = God, ism = system. I have no God system. I do not profess to know whether there is God or not; I merely find no need to live my life within a system that recognizes one.
    I’d actually prefer the mantle of “Jeffersonian Deist”. Thomas Jefferson found all the miracles and deism around Christ to be silly superstitions of Iron Age shepherds and unreasonable to an enlightened mind and he published a Bible that kept all the philosophy of Jesus and deleted the walking on water and God’s son stuff. But he, like other Founders, expressed a Deism, a belief that there was a Divine Providence, a Creator who brought us all into being.
    For me, that “Divine Providence” is the infinitely complex Cosmos which itself may be conscious at a level far higher than a hairless hominid can comprehend, and, if so, is so far above needing the worship of some tiny bits of starstuff on a watery rock that our prayers to affect it are like the wishes of bacteria to affect the Stock Market.

  1565. Anonymous on

    I heard Russ say use weed for what ever you want just don’t sell someone a kit telling them it makes you part of some religious group and some how that makes you exempt from arrest or prosecution. I didn’t hear him bash anyone

  1566. Chris Bennett on

    ooops, my bad, sorry to both of you. fixed it.

  1567. Anonymous on

    and then attack Russ, well, I needn’t say more.

  1568. Chris Bennett on

    actually, this is about NORML bashing other people. What has NORML done?

  1569. Anonymous on

    Quit bashing NORML you idiots, you aren’t doing anything productive. NORML is just trying to keep people out of jail by telling them the truth, and they support the religious use of cannabis. Support NORML… They are getting more done than Cannabis Culture.

  1570. Chris Bennett on

    Re “I could no longer continue reading the article, because I can’t stand when people twist things for their own meanings. The only problem I see with NORML at all from this post is caused by people who write articles such as this one. That problem is that NORML is then forced to spend its time trying to defend itself against this. NORML shouldn’t have to try and persuade other activists and consumers to try and join their cause. They should be persuading non-smokers, politicians, and others who are for prohibition, but they can’t because of people like this author, and articles like this one. In my view its clear that organizations such as NORML promote freedom, and people and articles like this, distract from that, and are as far as I’m concerned just as bad as the fear mongering that is put out by the DEA because they both work against the marijuana law reform movement”

    I couldn’t agree more, and why Allen St. Pierre’s Christmas message in HT was a smarmy attack on a sweet guy like Roger Christie, nieve, or not, as he may be, instead of on those issues, is what I fail to understand? and that is why we are having this conversation. People who live in Grass Houses should not throw Stoners…. Capeche? Why you are spending time digging a deeper hole is also a boggler?
    But I am here for all of you, and I will work it out with you, but do some reading.

  1571. Chris Bennett on

    well when you don’t read things, it explains even more about your lack of understanding. As the Fool said to the king, ‘say less than though knowest, know more than though sayest’.But hey, if you want to just respond from a place of ignorance, then….

  1572. Zenarchist.Swordsman on

    ++Likewise, a religious exemption from criminality is just going to force government to strictly define who’s religious and who’s criminal.++

    Here’s something that Carl (and all of the DEA) understands.

    The government does not have the resources (much less the clear constitutional authority) TO SUCCESSFULLY DO THAT.

    If you re-read (please do) Carl’s excellent response above, he pretty much lays that out.

    As soon as a religious case actually gets the “strict scrutiny” test, and the government fails to prove Cannabis to be the ‘danger’ they claim it must be to enforce total prohibition….. Cannabis Prohibition falls apart for _EVERYONE_.

    That’s what Carl said. Religious Exemption will never, de jure, happen, because as soon as a court rules in favor of them, it casts the entire “rational basis” of prohibition itself into doubt and murky legal territory open to attacks by regular citizens under the Equal Protection clause.

  1573. Brandon Gardner on

    Disclaimer: I honestly did not read this whole article. Why? Because I made about halfway through, to “One of Russ’s first comments in his article reveals his clear bias in the matter:

    ‘I am an out and proud atheist who was raised in a Mormon background (draw your own conclusions). Now some folks would say my atheism disqualifies me from commenting on religious matters. I say it makes me the perfect neutral observer – I don’t favor any one religion over any other.'” there to be precise, and I got completely fed up with the context in which this article was presenting its quotations, especially when their purpose was to discredit NORML “Steve Bloom of Celebstoner outlined some of these criticisms in his article Why’s Everyone So Pissed Off at NORML?”:

    • Bill Maher (NORML Advisory Board): “I’m a little disillusioned with NORML. I’ve always said, one of the reasons there’s been so little progress on the marijuana front is that what the movement needs more than anything is some kick-ass, take-no-prisoners, Karl Rove-type lobbyist, you know? And that just never happens, because it’s all a bunch of stoners.” […]
    • Miriam White, a former NORML employee, claims NORML has not played fair with the Yippies over the years, dredging up decades-old animosity between Stroup and the ’60s pranksters, who started the rally movement with smoke-ins in New York and Washington, DC just as Stroup founded the more buttoned-down NORML.?
    • Cheech & Chong chooses to co-sponsor their upcoming Get It Legal with the MPP, despite the fact that Tommy Chong is on NORML’s Advisory Board. When asked why, Chong comments: “NORML consists mainly of lawyers who like to get high.”
    • The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) decides to partner with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) rather than NORML for their recent conference, setting off an explosive email response from St. Pierre.”, and had nothing at all to do with the topic of Religion as the title of the article would suggest.
    I could no longer continue reading the article, because I can’t stand when people twist things for their own meanings. The only problem I see with NORML at all from this post is caused by people who write articles such as this one. That problem is that NORML is then forced to spend its time trying to defend itself against this. NORML shouldn’t have to try and persuade other activists and consumers to try and join their cause. They should be persuading non-smokers, politicians, and others who are for prohibition, but they can’t because of people like this author, and articles like this one. In my view its clear that organizations such as NORML promote freedom, and people and articles like this, distract from that, and are as far as I’m concerned just as bad as the fear mongering that is put out by the DEA because they both work against the marijuana law reform movement.

  1574. Russ Belville on

    I’m not in your way! What does that even mean? How many times do I have to type “I hope you win” for me to be out of your way? Because if “out of your way” means “keep quiet about the likelihood of a $50 ‘practitioners card’ putting our stakeholders in a cell” I cannot do that.

    List NORML’s victories, what so we can play another six-nested-level game of “yes sir! / no sir!” I’ll put up a bunch, you’ll pick them apart, I’ll defend them, ad nauseum? I’ve already played that game with the MERP troll. I’m not here to defend NORML; you’re here to defend the religious use argument.

    I will note, however, that thanks in part to NORML, religious users in Alaska,
    California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oregon can practice their beliefs with up to an ounce (or more in a few) of sacrament and not be arrested. I don’t think any First Amendment / RFRA case has set any similar precedent in any state.

  1575. Chris Bennett on

    Here is an irony for you Russell, the forward for my book Sex, Drugs, violence and the Bible BY RICHARD COWAN -National Director of NORML, The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, (August 1992 – August 1995). -Member of the Advisory Board of the Drug Policy Foundation.
    -Senior Policy Advisor to NORML.

    Is a book about sex, drugs and violence in the Bible more than a novelty in the modern world?

    As I write this, early in January of 2001, the news from the “Holy Land” is that “Israeli experts say they fear Jewish fundamentalists are plotting to blow up mosques on a holy site (the Temple Mount) at the heart of the Israeli-Arab conflict and could spark an apocalyptic holy war if they succeed.” Reuters words, not mine.

    In Northern Ireland, the “Good Friday” Peace Accords are still in danger, and the appointment of a “Christian fundamentalist” as Attorney General of the United States is viewed with dismay by many who see this as a threat to personal freedom.

    In short, the modern secular era of the Internet and space exploration is being threatened by religious views that have their origins in a world vastly different from our own.

    On the other hand, the 20th Century witnessed appalling carnage committed by neopagan “Scientific Racism” and anti-theistic “Scientific Socialism” — the most brutal regimes in human history. Thus, the rejection of the traditional religions does not eliminate the evils with which they have so often plagued us.

    So if neither traditional religion per se, nor the rejection of it, will bring us peace, then how are we to find it?

    This book offers an alternative way. Jesus said that the truth will make us free and made very clear that a commitment to the truth was central to His mission and identity. However, just as Jesus’ words were difficult for His contemporaries, this book challenges many assumptions dear to most believers.

    Perhaps even more important in a secular age that still seeks a transcendent moral guide, this book offers alternative interpretations of the Judeo-Christian religion that might bring back those who have rejected what it has become in service to various authoritarian regimes over the millennia. While it certainly challenges many of the assumptions of the “fundamentalists” of all the related faiths, it also challenges those who have rejected these assumptions, thinking that they were the essence of the Judeo-Christian beliefs. They are not. In fact, many of the tenets of political religion are antithetical to the original beliefs of the Judeo-Christian religions.

    To the fundamentalists, the notion that Moses and the Prophets and Jesus may have used cannabis may seem scandalous, even blasphemous, but only if they are unwilling rethink their views of cannabis. If God chose to give His revelations to humans while they were “stoned,” that would not make them any less true.

    In fact, believing that the Jewish tradition, like almost all other ancient religions, used entheogens would not require changing a jot or tittle. However, it would require an entirely different view of cannabis and the low-intensity world war being waged to suppress it.

    If – as the authors document – cannabis was used in anointing the Christ, then the war on cannabis is literally “the anti-Christ.” In that context, the war on cannabis is quite understandable. There are many secular explanations for the suppression of cannabis, economic, political, military, but they vary from time to time and place to place. The one constant and universal explanation is that this suppression represents a transcendent evil.

    As the authors observe, “In hindsight, it can be seen that the Pauline Church’s separation from the entheogenic induced ecstasies of the religious movement’s originators, accounts for the Church’s separation from the Holy Spirit itself. Throughout the Old Testament the recipient of the anointing oil interpreted its psychoactive effects as the Lord’s blessing in form of possession by the Holy Spirit. As Jesus himself is recorded to have stated on claiming his messianic mantle: “The Spirit of Yahweh God is upon me, because Yahweh has anointed me.”

    Think about what “separation from the Holy Spirit itself” means in the Christian context. It means everything.

    With that insight, this book’s views on sex in the Bible may be less surprising, but they will not be any less difficult for those who look to religion to control human sexuality in accordance with their own traditions. However, these “traditions” often conflict with the reality of the ancient world. Indeed, the authors document that the asexual Jesus of sanitized Christian tradition and censored Gospels was not the Jesus revered by many of his earliest followers. If it could be conclusively proven that Jesus was not celibate, indeed if it could be proven that Jesus was homosexual or bisexual, would that prove that he was not the Messiah? Not to the Gnostics.

    The paradox that the Judeo-Christian religions have been the source of both the best and the worst in human history is illustrated in the section on violence. This is also the section that is based most directly on the Bible itself, and the one that I find the most “difficult.” From the beginnings of Judaism there has been a tension between the letter of the law and mercy. From the beginning Christianity there were conflicting interpretations of the identity of Jesus, and the meaning of his life and mission. If he was the Messiah, just what does that mean? It certainly seemed to mean different things to different people 2000 years ago.

    This brings us back to the present. How do we find the truth, peace and justice buried beneath millennia of politicized accretions used to dehumanize the perceived enemies of the established authorities?

    This book offers a way. It is perfectly timed, but not just because it is greatly needed. It has been needed for far too long, but now is the time that it can be safely published and there are many who are ready for it.

    The specific crises in today’s headlines will have faded into new crises around essentially the same questions even before these words can be published. However, the one incontestable lesson of the last 2000 years is that the fundamental questions about human nature and our relationship to God will continue until we have found our way further along the path illuminated by this book.

  1576. Zenarchist.Swordsman on

    We can only escape this maddening duality we seem to be trapped in by transcending it. THEY are definitely using it against us.

    Russ, according to Carl Olsen and other’s very well researched material, any specific exemption from prosecution made for a person on an individualized basis for medical reasons(oh, say, the fact that a person “holds a state medical marijuana card”), opens an equal claim for the same exemption based on religious protection under the law, or risk being Unconstitutional.

    In Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Newark, 170 F.3d 359 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 817 (1999), the court, in an opinion authored by then circuit judge Alito, held unconstitutional a police department policy that granted exemptions from a “no beards” policy for medical reasons but refused to grant exemptions to officers whose religious beliefs required growing a beard. In holding that the policy was subject to strict scrutiny under Smith, the court wrote as follows:

    [T]he medical exemption raises concern because it indicates that the Department has made a value judgment that secular (i.e., medical) motivations
    for wearing a beard are important enough to overcome its general interest in uniformity but that religious motivations are not. As discussed above, when the government makes a value judgment in favor of secular motivations, but not religious motivations, the government’s actions must survive heightened scrutiny.

    I say this as a person of GREAT DOUBT (in the Bhuddist sense), for my Diety (All Hail Discordia) doesn’t care if I sometimes model Her as a Supreme Deity, or sometimes model Her as a useful metaphor for the “unknown unknown”.

    Hell, sometimes, SHE’s not even sure _I_ exist, like I claim to.

    In the Cannabis Movement, Russ, there is no “US (spiritual users) and THEM (secular users)…… but THEM, They do not think the same.”
    [~paraphrased from Gogol Bordello’s ‘Illumination’].

    Hail Eris, the Hemp Mother, Matron of Bureaucracy, the Bonna Rhea of the Scythians, the raging War Goddess Bellona of the Roman, the Sweet TERRIBLE Enyo of the Anatolians. SHE who introduced Dionysus to the Illumination of the CANNABIS Flower.


  1577. Chris Bennett on

    Hey Russ, Rad Russ, or whatever it is you like to go by, (not Russell!)
    What does the list for people who hired lawyers they found out about through NORML look like? You said something about cases won, which would be cool to see, but how about one for cases lost by NORML lawyers? anyone keeping track of that? These sorts of things work both ways.

  1578. Chris Bennett on

    I’ll pass your comments onto Roger in prison, and get his reply back to you. I don’t sell kits, or provide sacrament, and have no plans to.

  1579. Chris Bennett on

    Ok, ok, I got you, its Rad Russ, I can go with that.
    Yes please list NORML’s victories, that would be great.
    Legalization comes in steps Russ, medical use was a step, religious use is another possible step, so please get out of the way while we take a shot at that step.

  1580. Russ Belville on

    Man, you sure have a way with twisting my words! (I suppose in being religious that’s a required skill.) Please, where did I say “NORML supports no court actions”? We’re in court NOW on various levels pressing marijuana cases for favorable precedent! And really, zero court victories? Do I have to go link farm the various court cases NORML lawyers have won? You and Roger really need a lesson in the meaning of “zero”.

    Yes, medical exemptions are the greatest victories in cannabis reform. But you are trying to twist “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” and “only through legalization for all adults, even healthy atheists like me, can any cannabis user fully realize their medical and spiritual rights to cannabis” into “medical exemptions suck and we shouldn’t do those, we should only do full legalization”.

    Let’s look at those medical states. In mine (Oregon) and most others, legal medical users can be denied employment, fired, evicted, children taken, denied firearms, and denied organ transplants. Wouldn’t you say those are some “undue restrictions”?

    Now of course I’m glad that medical users in Oregon aren’t arrested; my wife is a cardholding medical user! But she is still discriminated against because cannabis use is criminal; that’s my ultimate point.

    Until we all have the human right to use cannabis, law enforcement is compelled to treat us as criminals first. Some will be patients, but because of the underlying criminality for all cannabis users, those patients have to prove they aren’t criminals. Here in Oregon, PTSD patients (to name just one set) are still criminals but epilepsy patients aren’t. Pain patients aren’t criminals, but only if they can prove they have seen a doctor for that pain in the past three years.

    Likewise, a religious exemption from criminality is just going to force government to strictly define who’s religious and who’s criminal.

  1581. Chris Bennett on

    Well, actually, I thought you went by Russell, and wasn’t invoking any special priveleges, just a misunderstanding. I like those sci-fi and scientific author’s as well, and such figures have influenced my own cosmology, which involves a slightly more ‘conscious’ universe than yours, but probably not as much as you think.
    I enjoyed that South park show as well, and the one on scientology (check out my show on scientology, L. Ron Hubbard on Drugs, got me a bit of a smear campaign of my own! )

    Re “I mean, if we’re going to be slurring sincere religious adherents, it only makes sense to slam Joseph Smith and praise Roger Christie. After all, a Summer of Love-graduating white Hawaiian claiming to receive enlightenment on the world’s original religion’s mandate of cannabis use is perfectly sensible, but a 19th century white New Yorker claiming to read golden tablets out of hat using magic rocks, why, that’s just silly.”

    Well, actually, yes. But then I am not supressing Mormonism, just ridiculing it, and I tend to do that a lot with some of the other religions. But I do support their right to practice it, i just wish they would stop laying it on the kids!

    Re “Your answer contains “I” and “my”. You’ve got a religion, Carl’s got one, Nancy’s got one, Roger’s got one – where, other than cannabis sacrament – do your religions agree?”

    I agree, its defined as “Gnosticism” and it is very ancient.

    Re “That’s my point. Courts want to believe that you follow a religion and it mandates cannabis sacrament, not that you believe in cannabis sacrament and it mandates a religion.”
    That has not been an issue in my case at all, or others. I am a member of the Church of the Universe, which formed in 1969, (just a few years after the UDV), our central tenet is that cannabis the Tree of Life, and we are mandated to use and make way for the tree of life, beyond that it is all ganja fueled discussion. Real religion Russell, is not a book and a list of rules, real religion – spirtuality – is an experience. Are you Experienced? Cause I am.

    Now it seems like you think the religious users have no rights as they are spread out over different belief systems, where as before the threat was too many people joining them. In your mind Russell, what is the right number for religious freedom? which is too small? and which is too large?

    I believe science and reason as well, point out where i have divereged from that….

    Re “I believe man created God and not vice versa.”

    The opening quote from my book on the Bible is “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him”.
    (Voltaire 1694-1778)

    As the cloe to 2 millennia old Gospel of Philip, explains: “God created humanity; (but now human beings create God.) That is the way it is in the world—-human beings make gods, and worship their creation. It would be appropriate for the gods to worship human beings!”

    Russ, I stand by my original assesment, the Devil knows his own, mwhuhuhu

  1582. Russ Belville on

    Mr. Christie writes (

    “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:

    • Trevor Douglass sent $50 to Roger for his card, argued his religious use, lost, was fined $135 + court costs and given 15 hours of community service… in Colorado, where decrim fought for by NORML would have made it just a $100 ticket. (

    • Michael Lineker and his United Global Mankind Divine Maintenance and Direction church believed in the holy anointing oil, he explained to an Alaska court. He got seven days in jail. (

    • Steven Swallick got his THC Ministry kit and provided his ministerial defense to a court in Brevard County, Florida. He’s serving two years in prison now. (

    • Dan Quaintence got five years and his wife Mary two-to-three using his Church of Cognizance as a defense in court in New Mexico. Daniel Hardesty, using the same Church, lost his appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court on his possession misdemeanor. (

    • Brenda Shoop told an Alabama court her religious use in the Universal Orthodox Church protected her under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. She served a year and a day in prison. (

    • Robert George Henry became a member of THC Ministry in 2008 (four months after he was arrested) and that defense got him 9-23 months in prison in Pennsylvania. (

    Mr. Christie sells on his web site a $250 “Sanctuary Kit” and a $50 “Practitioner’s Kit”. He explains these kits demonstrate your religious sincerity and how 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.

    By the way, NORML does make available, for free on our website, all the documentation pertaining to Massachusetts v. Stroup & Cusick. Here’s one link: and you can search for the rest right here: Just like we provide a priceless amount of legal information here

  1583. Russ Belville on

    My mom and my wife only have that privilege. You’ll note I never bill myself as “Russell”, only “Russ”. (Interesting coincidence: Keith Stroup’s first name is Russell. I, like he, use my middle name in public; my first name is John.)

    Anyway, I had to compliment you on the “Cult of the Magic Hat” slur of my birth religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which I left shortly after baptism at age eight, so I doubt it had a ton of influence on me (Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, and Sagan had far more influence on me than Joseph Smith or Brigham Young). That made me laugh out loud and recall fondly one of my favorite South Park episodes (“dumb da-dumb dumb dumb!”). Does that mean my “Church of the Lighter Wallets” slur of THC Ministry is back on the table, then?

    I mean, if we’re going to be slurring sincere religious adherents, it only makes sense to slam Joseph Smith and praise Roger Christie. After all, a Summer of Love-graduating white Hawaiian claiming to receive enlightenment on the world’s original religion’s mandate of cannabis use is perfectly sensible, but a 19th century white New Yorker claiming to read golden tablets out of hat using magic rocks, why, that’s just silly.

    In your answer, however, you reveal the problem the courts have with these cannabis religions and which my questions were trying to illustrate. Your answer contains “I” and “my”. You’ve got a religion, Carl’s got one, Nancy’s got one, Roger’s got one – where, other than cannabis sacrament – do your religions agree?

    That’s my point. Courts want to believe that you follow a religion and it mandates cannabis sacrament, not that you believe in cannabis sacrament and it mandates a religion.

    By the way, I highly doubt I am anywhere near to being “an apocalyptic Neo-Gnostic Tantric, with strong Shaivite tendencies”. I believe creation is its own excuse and we are the result of a googolplex of complex random interactions that through happy luck and implacable selective forces allowed conscious tool-making hominids to evolve. I believe science and reason, not prayers and worship, are the tools of our enlightenment. I believe there may be a consciousness greater than our own, but if it exists, believing we are the basis of its concerns is egocentrism at its extreme. I believe man created God and not vice versa. I think that means I’m a Jeffersonian Deist Atheist with strong Saganite tendencies.

  1584. Chris Bennett on

    Russell, here in canada, that medical access was won in court, as was that rasta case in Guam.
    So to be clear, what we are getting from you Russell, is that NORML supports no court actions, and only legislative ones. Well that explains why NORML has played a major role as a lawyer referral service while producing zero court victories.

    and to be clear, here is exactly what YOU said regarding medical exemptions “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.”

    The medical exemption process that was won in 15 States and Federally in Canada, are the greatest victories of cannabis reform.

    Re “Carl’s been trying it for years. I hope he wins.”
    NORML has been trying for 40 years, I hope they win.

    How long have you been an activist Russell?

    You are digging a deeper hole.

  1585. Russ Belville on

    It’s a novel legal theory. Carl’s been trying it for years. I hope he wins. I doubt he will. Carl’s not selling $50 cards to others to test his legal theory. I’m cool with Carl, even if he doesn’t appreciate me.

    Let me just address this:

    “Russ says sick people who use marijuana legally now should be illegal until everyone gets marijuana for any reason. I guess we could make the same argument for morphine or cocaine, but nobody would take it seriously.”

    Where did I say that? Sick people who use marijuana legally now can do so because… wait for it… USE OF MARIJUANA FOR SICK PEOPLE IS LEGAL NOW in some states. Not because a court decided that medical use was an already existing right heretofore unrecognized by courts, but because activists gathered signatures, placed an initiative, and convinced 50%+1 voters to support it.

    I just love how people read my posts where I always say I support people’s medical use and religious use and conclude I hate patients and believers. I love how my fight to make cannabis legal for all people means I hate patients and believers. Oh well, every religion needs a devil and I suppose I’ll do just as well as an imaginary demon.

  1586. Chris Bennett on

    For the record, I have to say Carl is right about both Russell and Roger, (Roger is a man of faith, not a man of law).

  1587. Chris Bennett on

    So Russell, when NORML founder Kieth Stroup got busted about 5 years ago, did he fight the charges on the basis the law was wrong, or take a “technicality” route? Or a plea deal?

  1588. Russ Belville on

    Chris and others point to “nationwide legalization” as if that is the sole determining factor in measuring success.

    No, that is not going to happen on Obama’s watch. It might not even happen in my lifetime (I’m 42). But plenty of successes on the road to nationwide legalization have occurred in the 40 years of NORML’s existence. In thirteen states, you can have personal amounts of marijuana and not face arrest and jail. In fifteen states and DC, you can possess marijuana for medical use and not face arrest and jail and in thirteen states you can cultivate it (#14, New Jersey, and DC don’t allow cultivation and #15, Arizona, only allows it in certain circumstances). In numerous cities, marijuana is lowest law enforcement priority, decriminalized, or symbolically legalized. In public opinion polls, legalization support has risen from 12% to 46% since NORML began.

    So thanks to NORML, a religious user in Ohio could have up to 3.5 ounces on him and only face a ticket. Thanks to NORML, a medical user in Oregon can have 1.5 pounds of marijuana with no repercussions at all. Between the laws we’ve changed in 23 states and DC (6 have both medical and decrim) we’ve protected 48% of the US population for personal or medical use of cannabis. We’ve secured the freedom from arrest for religious (and any other) users of cannabis to possess up to at least an ounce in 13 decrim states representing 35% of the US population.

    For forty years while you have been fighting for recognition of a First Amendment right to use cannabis that courts have repeatedly said aren’t there, we’ve passed actual laws that have protected to some degree over one-third of potential religious users in the United States. I call that success.

  1589. Chris Bennett on

    Good Saturday morning, Chris,

    Aloha. Thanks for what you’re writing on the blogs. I’ve seen some of it, and hear it’s another great opportunity to educate the choir to be able to sing this song.

    An idea; Keith Stroup, and Rick Cusick, Publisher of High Times, were arrested TOGETHER for ‘public use of marijuana’ at the Boston Commons Hemp Rally a few years back; 2004, 2005. I heard they were arrested, charged and chose to fight their cases in court. Here’s Keith, leader of a lawyer’s group for just this subject getting to put his legal skills and the support of ALL his lawyer associates, to the test! My point is; please use Lexus/Nexus or other legal system and look-up, or have a lawyer friend with access, look-up Keith’s personal legal defense of his use of ‘marijuana’. It’s a court record and I’m feeling that it’s going to really help this particular argument. If nothing else, it will be a template for a “recreational use” defense in court that he should be GIVING to ALL his members on his website in stead of having each defendant pay over and over and over again to lawyers for the very same thing. That should be worth the price of admission! :-} Massachusetts v. Stroup?

    What hasn’t been mentioned, yet is the fact that my Ministry was designed so that each member had MY state Ministry license number on ALL their i.d. cards, plant-tags, etc. My point was that if any member got arrested anywhere that those plants identified in advance with my tags and my license number were MY plants! That I would be brought into the case and help to win it. Further evidence of my sincerity and strength of conviction that I was supporting each and every member all the way 24/7/365.

    THC Ministry membership provides ‘assurance’ and ‘insurance’. Assurance that a new member with a Cannabis Sanctuary Kit would be educated into this vast knowledge of and association with the millions spiritual users from all time, including the saints. Insurance that they would enjoy a built-in religious ‘defense to prosecution’ for the rest of their lives 24/7/365 as we provided templates of Motions for a Religious Defense used in court saving thousands of dollars of lawyer time. Virtually all Cannabis users, with the exception of medical, have ZERO defense! They don’t know what to effectively say or do if confronted by law enforcement, or their family, for that matter. “I smoke recreationally”? Good luck. We provided solid education of what to say and do, backed by my willingness to testify in their favor in court. All for the value of one hour’s lawyer time, $250. Membership was free to low budget people who asked for it. We built ‘mana’, inner spiritual strength, inside each member so they can give cogent answers to family, friends and law enforcers, if necessary for the rest of their lives. What’s that worth? Priceless, in my opinion.

    Have fun with that and have a terrific weekend. Full moon? Must be nice.

    All the best to you!

    Roger aka, “One of the happiest guys in federal prison.”


  1590. Chris Bennett on

    Russell, you clearly no nothing about the area of law regarding religious freedom issues such as the one you list here, are not even a consideration.

    “What evidence are you presenting that God compels you to use cannabis? Are you calling God to the witness stand? Can you show us evidence that not using cannabis will cause God to punish you somehow? Can you show us people who didn’t heed God’s word and suffered material loss in direct response to God’s offense at the lack of cannabis use?”

    Russell, the issue is not that we think are relgious use is more legitmate than your secular enjoyment, it is that we think the already exisitng laws regarding to religious freedom, include our right to sacramental cannabis, and that is what we are applying in these cases. Myself, and pretty much every other spiritual user i know, are activists workign towards full legalization as well.

    Re from Carl Olsen, of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church
    Religious use in the courtsRuss slams both religious and medical exactly the same way. I’m keeping score. Legalization states: 0, Medical states: 15, Religious states 0. So, Russ says sick people who use marijuana legally now should be illegal until everyone gets marijuana for any reason. I guess we could make the same argument for morphine or cocaine, but nobody would take it seriously.

    Yes, the courts have made it clear they will not exempt marijuana from Schedule I for any reason. So, how about Schedule II? We don’t know yet, but we know the U.S. Supreme Court denied protection to religious use of peyote in 1990 on the basis that the state of Oregon did not allow “any” use of peyote. There are several states that do allow “medical” use of marijuana and we have not seen an equal protection claim for religious use based on that “allowed” use yet.

    The difference is there is a federal peyote exemption for religious use. There is no federal exemption for “medical” use, other than the two patients using it here in Iowa. I could go ahead and make that religious claim now (equal protection based on accepted medical use), but I think attacking the credibility of the claim marijuana has no medical use should go first because it will weaken the argument it can’t be allowed for religious use. My last ruling on religious use from the Iowa Supreme Court in 1984 was an equal protection claim based on religious use of peyote. The court said marijuana and peyote are different, not equal. Medical use in Iowa did not start until 1990, so I’m not barred from making an equal protection claim based on medical use of marijuana. I have permits to use the state capitol in 1995 and 1996 that specifically say these two patients can use marijuana at the state capitol. In other words, the restrictions on medical use are not very severe compared to the court’s description of the religious use of peyote (1. only in a desert enclosure; 2. only from sundown Saturday to sunrise Sunday; 3. users isolated from public until effects of peyote have worn off). We don’t have deserts here in Iowa, but the Iowa Supreme Court thinks we do.

    Once religious use is allowed, there’s no way the government can limit membership in the church, so that is going to increase the membership of the church artificially with a lot of non-believers just there for the exemption. If the state requires the church to make members pass some kind of religious test, that is a violation of the establishment clause.

    The way this works is the church will eventually get the compelling interest test. When the government fails to prove marijuana is dangerous, legalization will follow. There will never be a religious exemption, because an exemption implies that the law is justified for non-members of the church.

    The compelling interest test would end marijuana prohibition. It would not result in a religious exemption. If you attack marijuana prohibition on any other grounds, the courts apply something called the “rational basis test” which means more likely than not (reasonable). The compelling interest test is strict scrutiny and the government must prove a threat to public health and safety not just some general statement that Schedule I implies a threat to public health and safety.

    A lot of attorneys tell me I know more about this area of law than any attorney they have ever met, and Russ just doesn’t impress me as being qualified to give people legal advice. But, of course, Roger Christie is probably less qualified than Russ to give legal advice on this area of the law. I’ve talked to Roger numerous times and he doesn’t know the law and better than I did in the 1970s before I started hanging around law libraries and talking with attorneys. We had the best attorneys in the world when I lived in Miami and former U.S. Attorney Ramsey Clark was our lead attorney. I made those lawyers explain everything to me and then went to the law library to verify whether they were giving me an accurate interpretation of the law. The ACLU would not be backing me here in Iowa if I did not have a thorough understanding of the law.

    – Carl Olsen November 19, 2010 8:12AM

  1591. Russ Belville on

    It just ain’t a hate-NORML post without good ol’ Bruce’s link-farm cut-n-paste. What’s that, sixty-seven times I’ve seen him post the same exact comment in HuffPo, Alternet, NORML, Facebook, CC, etc.? Hooray, I win the MERP cut-n-paste pool!

  1592. Chris Bennett on

    …well good question, Russell, and I am glad to see you here.The thing is, this is not a new religion, it is the return of the original religion, and the cannabis tree of life is the alpha and omega of the world’s religions, the great renovation…. Revelation…. I am sure you can recall bits of that from your days of the cult of the magic Hat, and your time there makes your stance, all the more understandable. Here are some articles on Christianity that answer your questions in regards to Ceasar’s churches and our relationship with them

    My cosmology is one I deal with at length in my second book
    But the short answer is, am an apocalyptic Neo-Gnostic Tantric, with strong Shaivite tendencies (and i am kind of thinking you are to Russell, you just don’t realize it yet)
    Here is an account of the religious experience which led to my books and activism
    and a bit on my cosmology
    as well, you can find more information at my website

  1593. Russ Belville on

    So, by your estimation, the need for one commanded by God to use cannabis is similar to, say, an AIDS patient with wasting syndrome who will die without using cannabis?

    The corollary would seem to be:

    1) if you have a medical issue that cannabis relieves, you should be free;
    2) if you have a religious belief that compels cannabis use, you should be free;
    3) if you just like to smoke pot like I do, you should go to jail.

    Now maybe you don’t believe that, but your “we cannot wait” comment implies that somehow I can or should wait. It says, “if you don’t want to be busted, atheist, just stop smoking pot. It’s not like God told you to!”

    I do believe that 1) has a legitimate “we cannot wait” argument; that’s why I have waited as we worked hard to pass and protect medical marijuana laws (note: we didn’t expect courts to set precedent that exempted medical use; we went out and changed the secular laws). But I believe your argument to support 2) is no more legitimate than my argument to support 3). To wit:

    If I bring an AIDS patient into court, I can introduce evidence that proves how cannabis alleviates wasting syndrome. I can introduce expert witnesses who can testify to that fact. I can show how this person will die without cannabis.

    What evidence are you presenting that God compels you to use cannabis? Are you calling God to the witness stand? Can you show us evidence that not using cannabis will cause God to punish you somehow? Can you show us people who didn’t heed God’s word and suffered material loss in direct response to God’s offense at the lack of cannabis use?

    Since God refuses to testify in courts, all we have is your word that you really really really believe God wants you to use cannabis. Why should that be more compelling to the court than my insistence that evolution provided to me a plant that perfectly compliments my endocannabinoid receptors and without it I suffer?

    You’re saying you can’t wait because waiting means infringing on your religion. That’s the same argument the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is using to defend polygamy. You want many consenting adults to have the right to swap cannabis with one another. FLDS wants many consenting adults to have the right to marry one another. Why are they wrong (assuming everyone is a consenting non-coerced adult; I know FLDS has child-brides) and you’re right?

    Both you and I really like cannabis. We both use it to enhance our lives and to bring us closer to our planet, our fellow humans, and our understanding of the cosmos. But because you believe that’s tied to an unprovable assertion about the opinions of an imagined Creator, you and not I deserve exemption from criminal prosecution?

    What we at NORML understand all too well is that prohibition couldn’t care less whether you believe in God or not, it will lock you up, take your property, destroy your family, kill your dogs, and ruin your career. We understand that NO cannabis consumers can wait and it is offensive to ask the non-religious ones to do so.

  1594. Russ Belville on

    You don’t really want me to start collecting all I’ve read, seen, and heard from the religious that fosters hate, do you? Because I don’t think the character count limit in a CC comment will allow that much…

    Unless you meant that from reading atheist’s works you’ve come to understand the hate religions foster, then I concur.

  1595. Russ Belville on

    I have a much longer reply written that I hope CC will be willing to publish in response to this article. Until then, I have a genuine question for Chris Bennett and for the other religious users who have replied:

    What are your religious beliefs?

    In all these cases, I hear of true believers who believe cannabis is sacramental. Fair enough.

    What other beliefs do you all share? Old Testament? New Testament? Torah? Quran? Is there a holy book? What day is the sabbath? Is Jesus Christ a man, a god, God in man’s form, both, neither? Is there a Holy Spirit? What happens to man when he dies? Is there an afterlife? A soul? Does God send non-believers to hell? Purgatory? What constitutes sin? How does one receive forgiveness? Is repentance necessary? Must one accept Christ as a savior? Is mankind guilty of Adam & Eve’s “original sin”? How was the mankind and the universe created? What are your traditional hymns?

    This illustrates the problem the courts and many lay observers have with the claim of a religious right to use cannabis: it seems that many of these religions exist ONLY to secure a right to use cannabis. That’s what Allen meant by “trying to game the system”.

    What many have failed to see in my writings is that I’m trying to show you true believers how “Babylon” sees you, because it is in “Babylon’s” courts you’re trying to win. The average American’s understanding of “church” = “ancient religions with books and cathedrals and lots of dogma” and “sacrament” = “that little paper cup of wine we get on our knees for every Sunday to accept as the blood of Jesus sacrificed for our sins”. You’re asking them to accept churches that are younger than they are and whose sacrament represents (to them) just getting high anywhere anytime you like and whose “reverends” are trading weed for “donations” and selling “Get Out of Jail Free” cards for $50.

    If you want your religious rights, your hope lies not in the spiritual realms of the First Amendment or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but in the secular realms of the Controlled Substances Act, re- or de-scheduling cannabis, or filing legislation or citizen’s initiatives to change the laws that prohibit cannabis for all of us.

  1596. Ben on

    Chris you are a true revolutionary. Give Thanks!

  1597. Rev. Nancy on

    Sam, is your name Scalia or are you just an ordinary prosecutor channeling him? Your comment:

    “Freedom of religion gives everyone the right to believe anything they want, but not to do anything they want.”

    This is right out of the Smith decision, one of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions that ranks right up there with Dred Scott and Plessey v. Ferguson for worst ever in terms of civil rights.

  1598. Rev/ Nancy on

    Many blessings to you Chris Bennett, for this and for all your work. Excellent rebuttal. One thing that NORML seems to fail to understand is that we who use Cannabis in our worship CANNOT wait for other Cannabis victories. We need to practice our religions continually (I-tinually). For us, this is not optional. We have various levels of knowledge of legal issues, but we share the need for the Almighty in our lives NOW, and to follow the path the Almighty sets for us NOW. For your work in enhancing this, and in developing the intellectual body of work showing how long Cannabis has been used spiritually, I for one will be always grateful.
    Jah Rastafari! Blessed be.

  1599. Anonymous on

    The more I read, see, or hear from atheists, the more I understand hate.

  1600. Slide on

    Thank you Chris for so eloquently stating what many of us feel. I have known Roger for 6 years. Anyone that knows him understands his sincerity. The fact that he has not been released is something NORML should be fighting instead of disparaging the man and his beliefs.

    NORML will never get another donation from me.

  1601. Chris Bennett on

    And the answer is to fix that, cases like these have that potential. The war on cannabis, is in its very origins, a religious war, it is ‘Christians vs. the Devil’s weed’, The Drug War Is The Inquisition!

  1602. Chris Bennett on

    The point is that nationwide decrimilzation or legalization, requires the whole country vote with a positive outcome on the matter. Do you really think that is going to happen durring Obama’s watch? or anytime soon? NORML has been “trying” for 40 years…. the laws regarding Freedom of Religion, already exist, in the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter, and exemptions have been granted for substances banned by the CSA. Your secularist views that “religion shouldn’t have any influence in the law” are simply your own “pipe dream” as religious views clearly already have an effect on the law.

  1603. Anonymous on

    I’m glad to see, reading through to whole article, that you mentioned the Supreme Court cases dealing with religious drug use. I think I should point out an important aspect of the ruling in the Native American Church case, and an aspect which unfortunately supports Belville’s comment regarding religious drug use. As you pointed out, the government has allowed, and still allows, the Native American Church to use peyote in religious rituals. In fact, as far as I’m aware, members of the NAC are the only people legally allowed to harvest wild peyote (I know this is true in Mexico, I think it carries through to the U.S.). However, the case you mentioned does not deal with their right to use peyote (or, more generally, any illegal drug) in a religious setting, but rather with their right to not be persecuted for such use. The facts of the case were that an Oregon man used peyote in an NAC ritual. His employer found out (I believe he was issued a random tox screen or some bs like that) and terminated his employment in compliance w/ state drug free workplace laws. He sued for wrongful termination, claiming that since his peyote use was protected under the 1st amendment his employer could not terminate him for it. The SC found that, while his peyote use was protected under the 1st, his employer still had the right to terminate him in order to be in compliance w/ state law. In fact, the quote from Belville is almost the exact language the justices used in writing the majority opinion. The court decided that the government can violate our rights when protection of those rights interferes with a significant goal or purpose of the government. In this case, the significant purpose or goal was the enforcement of drug prohibition. You and I may not consider this an important or significant purpose or goal, but we don’t have the guns or the power to make that call. Moreover, this decision is in line w/ a number of other cases, such as the cases where the SC supported the interment of Japanese American citizens during WWII. In fact the reasoning behind these cases was very similar: yes, the gov’t was (in this case is) violating citizens’ rights, but the gov’t had a good reason to do so and is therefore protected. If you look at enough court cases, you’ll realize that many of them are decided on the basis of might makes right and the ends justify the means. I make this comment not because I think Christie should be in jail (he shouldn’t be) but because I feel you have made a major error in assessing our justice system. Our justice system no longer cares about our rights, about reason, or about what is right. If it did, we would have won on all 3 fronts decades ago. Our justice system operates on precedent and is largely concerned w/ preserving the status quo, and unfortunately, in this case, precedent supports the status quo.

  1604. Shiva Is A Dancer on

    Thank you, sir, for another informative and insightful bit of writing. I agree completely with your critique of NORML!

    Your forgot one very interesting little tidbit about their history that seems shameful and embarrassing when viewed with hindsight: NORML’s complete lack of respect for the work of Jack Herrer. They called him all sorts of names when Jack first began his activism but it is pretty well understood these days that the Emperor of Hemp had a much deeper influence on the current medical/spiritual cannabis legalization movements than Stroup or any of his button-down clowns. Most of these fools are happy to amputate their nose to spite their face, it seems.

    Anyway, thanks again for the great piece of writing. The new book is phenomenal!

  1605. Jayelle Farmer on

    I absolutely agree with your comments. We already have an Ivory Tower of legal cannabis users, some of whom tend to like to vote against cannabis general-use initiatives – AND WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER ONE. Legalize cannabis for EVERY cannabis user, for ANY reason of use.

  1606. M.Sebastian Patrick on

    None of us truly has any freedom. Because as soon as what you say, or do offends the wrong person in power- your freedoms are revoked.Free country my ass! The entire drug war is a big sick joke that is destroying our society anyway. No logical argument in the world will change the minds of zealots-the only thing they will listen to is force.. Therefore everyone, everyday must make every effort to FORCE change where it is needed: or it will never occur. Stand together and stand up for Marijuana. Or fall apart from apathy-the Governments of oppression depend on it.

  1607. Sam on

    I found Russells quotations the only ones in the entire piece to make any sense. Freedom of religion gives everyone the right to believe anything they want, but not to do anything they want. I it is clearly a better tactic to try to decriminalize marijuana for the fact that its harmless, rather than to try to get it decriminalized for religious reasons first. Being a religious sacrament should have no effect on whether something is legal or illegal. I think it would be much more difficult to decriminalize marijuana for everyone if it’s first legalized for some people to use it as a religious sacrament. And how does being an atheist bias someone from examining religious claims when being religious does not? Its not like one has to pass a test of any sort to claim religious belief. I really doubt Russell cannot comprehend that some people use marijuana for “spiritual” reasons, whatever that means. He just thinks marijuana should be legal because there is not reason it should be illegal, and in all cases religion shouldn’t have any influence in the law.

  1608. Bruce Cain on

    I agree with you 100 percent. I talked with Christie frequently in the 90’s and he is one of the nicest activists in the movement. Just as Peron said “all use is medical use” I think you could also equally argue that “all use is religious” use. Such decisions should always be left to the individual. No government control.

    Why Re-Legalization Activists Should Vote NO on PROP19

    MERP Headquarters
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    Fax to Your Representatives to Immediately Re-Legalize Marijuana:

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    Monsanto’s Fall: The End of GMO Seed Industry? (Oct 12, 2010)

  1609. 420Hydro on

    I seriously doubt that St.Pierre and the other executives would step down and let more dynamic leadership take their place. The only thing to do is withhold your cash and let NORML wither and die away….

  1610. Mike Aiello on

    Chris Bennett’s article is devasting. NORML *is* composed of a bunch of old lawyers who like to smoke pot. Bellville and St. Pierre are of a class: they are both atheists or otherwise contemptuous of religion. They don’t comprehend the fact that Cannabis could have a spiritual effect on people, because they themselves are full-blown secularists, disconnected from any genuine religious experience.

    Learn more about Roger Christie’s case here:

  1611. Dan on


  1612. Rev. Bud Palm - THC Ministry on

    I think a public apology from St. Pierre is in order.

  1613. Anonymous on

    I don’t expect much support on issue, but NORMLs stance against pot in the workplace is stupid. When someone takes potentially toxic & certainly addictive pain killers, the doctor doesn’t say, “don’t go to work” or, “don’t drive” but rather says, “only drive or work when you’re not too stoned”… similarly, when someone takes some synthetic, ineffective, body-destroying drug like Prozac the doctor doesn’t say, “don’t drive, don’t work” but rather says, “get used to the effects”… same with the notoriously destructive amphetamine, it’s recommended to ‘get used to the effects’ before operating heavy machinery & same should go for pot. It’s dangerous to operate heavy machinery if someone is too stoned on some super stony strain, but it CAN be used responsibly contrary to NORMLs too-conservative stance.

  1614. Anonymous on

    NORML people in DC are ignorant for sure. They do not respect what is spiritual, and they are drug war profiteers whose board members are often greedy shyster lawyers who love the fact that 800,000 of us get arrested every year and many of us will require a lawyer’s services. I saw through NORML a long time ago and stopped giving them my money or having any faith in them. It’s a vicious thing to do to slag a man who is in federal prison for marijuana. MORML is as corrupt and dumb as most other political orgs in Babylon, also know as Washington, DC. They are egoheaded twits who write bullshit and profit off prohibition. Read the book High in America and you will see that their founder was a nark who screwed us out of getting marijuana decriminalized at the federal level. Boycott NORML. They suck. Victory for Roger Christie!!