Monday, February 15, 2010

Cannabis Religion?

The question of what qualifies as religion has come up under many guises throughout American history. The THC Ministry and its followers are no different. A man from Boulder Colorado was pulled over for an expired license plate and was found to be in possession of marijuana. The police officer was obviously perturbed by this and put Trevor Douglas, 25, under arrest. This has not gone to court yet, but Douglas claims that since he uses the marijuana as a sacrament just like “wine and bread are sacred to Christians” he is protected by the first amendment. However, I have understood that the first amendment does not protect you from things that are in fact illegal. Now the THC Ministry’s website claims that cannabis is the original sacrament to basically all the known religions in the world and that they can provide legal defense for any sincere person over the age of 21. They say that as along as they do not sell the marijuana that it is within their religion. So, many questions are raised here. Can the sacrament of wine and bread and the sacrament of cannabis be compared? To be fair, the THC ministry does need for a sincere practitioner to be over 21, or living independently of parents or have parents written permission) and become ordained. One must get a Home Sanctuary Kit in order to become a full member, that includes legal documents proving that you are a sincere practitioner. It will be interesting how this one plays out. The wine and bread of Protestant Christianity are symbols and in Catholic Christianity have transubstantiated to literally become body and blood. There is no “high” being reached. Cannabis has different effects. On the THC Ministry website there is no procedural directions for how one must use the cannabis in a sincere religious manner. It seems that it is an attempt to make a loophole to be able to smoke pot without being arrested. “We use Cannabis religiously, and you can too” is the tagline of the website. It does not say that you have to give up any other religion. So what happens if a THC Ministry member is a member at a local Baptist church as well? Are you allowed to technically have two religious affiliations? How do we define a person raised by parents of two different faiths? Do they have to pick only one? I do not know the answer to that question. However, it seems fairly easy to obtain a Congregation Kit from the THC Ministry.

The Congregation Kit combines our Sancturary Kit with the following additions:

  • 1 Minister-size bottle of Holy Anointing Oil (Made prayerfully with the ancient and sacred recipe of Exodus 30:23)
  • 1 bottle Cognac and Cannabis Tincture (Made prayerfully with Grand Marnier and Chambord, both premium label French cognacs + an organic Hawaiian Cannabis flower bud.)
  • 1 bottle Sweet Cannabis Tincture (Non-alcoholic. Made prayerfully from vegetable glycerin + a premium organic Hawaiian Cannabis flower.)
  • 12 Practioner Kits

Congregation Kits are available for a donation of $1000. You may pay by personal check, money order, or through Western Union.”

That is from the THC Ministry Website. What does that say? There does not seem to be any necessary background checks. A minister of a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. congregation or gathering has to have some kind of education or at least background in the religion. This does not seem like there are any qualification except having one thousand dollars. However, one can go to Cannabis College to learn how to grow these plants more effectively for a one hundred dollar donation. Notice, neither of these amounts are fees. Again, does this count? It is difficult for me to consider a “ministry” that is unable to spell the word “sanctuary” or “practitioner” correctly on their website a sincere anything, except maybe sincerely stoned and unable to spell.

However the case of Trevor Douglas is decided, it is going to have an impact. What does it mean if he is found guilty? What does it mean if he is found innocent? I foresee very unhappy people either way.

The main questions in this case I think are “What is sincere”, “What do motives mean”, and “Can an illegal action be protected by first amendment rights?” (The comments to this particular article are if nothing else entertaining just for the record.) These are not knew questions. These same questions apply to the Pueblo Controversies discussed in Tisa Wenger’s book We Have a Religion. She talks about the “immoral” dances as well as the peyote controversies as well as all the prohibition against alcohol and risqué “white” dances. As well as can they be good Christians while maintaining their indigenous “customs”? Do we want our laws apply to everyone, or just the “other”? Who are we protecting and what are we protecting them from? And who is “we” and “them” and “other” and “us”?

I guess the cap-it-all question is “What exactly does religious freedom mean?”

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