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The GCW
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 12:56 am    Post subject: US VA: Marijuana As First Amendment Right Reply with quote

US VA: Marijuana As First Amendment Right

Pubdate: Tue, 06 Nov 2007

Source: cville (Charlottesville, VA)

Contact: editor@c-ville.com

Website: http://c-ville.com/

Author: J. Tobias Beard

http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v07/n1283/a02.html?397


MARIJUANA AS FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT


Rutherford Fights For Religious Pot Use

The Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville-based organization that defends civil liberties, is currently representing Carl Eric Olsen in his 30-year struggle for religious freedom. That in itself is not noteworthy, as The Rutherford Institute specializes in religious cases. But what is unusual is the particular religious freedom for which Olsen is fighting. Since the early '70s, Olsen has been a member of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church ( EZCC ), a religious group that holds that marijuana is a sacrament, and whose members smoke it all day, every day.

The EZCC has existed in Jamaica since at least the 1940s, and was first incorporated in the United States in Miami in 1975. In the late '70s and early '80s, the Church was involved in several major drug busts, netting as much as 38,000 pounds of marijuana in one raid in 1978.

"I [have been] arrested over and over again," Olsen says from his home in Iowa, and over and over again he has challenged those arrests, losing every time.

But things may be different now. Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ( RFRA ), Olsen, 55, is claiming that the government is keeping him from practicing his religion. According to the RFRA, the courts must use "strict scrutiny" in cases involving religion to make sure that an individual's First Amendment rights have not been violated.

Enter The Rutherford Institute. Despite a seemingly straight-laced image, defending the right to smoke pot is not necessarily at odds with the Institute's mission. John Whitehead, Rutherford's founder, says that the issue is not drugs, but religious freedom. "The question," Whitehead says, "always comes down to, 'What kind of power does the government have?'" In the case of marijuana legislation, the answer for Whitehead is too much. Whole Foods, he says, used to sell a hemp cereal that he was particularly fond of, but "when Bush got into office…[the government] went crazy for a while" and pulled the cereal off the shelf. "I love my hemp cereal," says Whitehead.

In a 1979 case, the Florida Supreme Court wrote, "( 1 ) the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church represents a religion within the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; ( 2 ) the 'use of cannabis is an essential portion of the religious practice.'" Nevertheless, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a ruling in 1990 denying Olsen a religious exemption to smoke marijuana. That ruling meant that he could no longer be a practicing member of the EZCC.

"Without being able to gather with other people and smoke marijuana," says Olsen, "my religion does not exist."
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Brother Adam
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 2:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hope he does well.......
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-Brother Adam (we are all one family)

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

-James Madison

Police officers acquitted for beating a 64 yr old man recently in New Orleans. In the words of their defense attorney "all he had to do was comply"....and they wouldn't have fractured his face.
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Rev. Joshua Snider
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Location: On the shores of Gitche Gumee, Of the shinig Big-See-Water,... Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

PostPosted: Thu Nov 08, 2007 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Figured I'd slap this up here because it's kind of the guts and it's good stuff for us to know.

http://www.ethiopianzioncopticchurch.org/Federal/073062_CA8_006.pdf

http://www.ethiopianzioncopticchurch.org/Federal/Eighth.aspx

Brother Carl has been training his whole life for this and he knows intimately how the government has cheated in the past because they have done it to him time and time again, so I don't think that naivity is one of his weaknesses.

Rev. Tom Brown is helping tag team the Eighth Circuit with him and with the Rutherford Institute's support I'd say we are moving forward in ways we have never been able to before. This does not rule out the possibility of the government to cheat but it seems to me that many of their avenues to do so, are disappearing.

If they cheat publicly this time there is a much better chance of getting wide public support.

May the fight for freedom for one and all one day be one against the archaic and ancient tools of our oppression as they crumble into dust from their own design!

One love,
Joshua
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