Pubdate: Fri, 05 Sep 2008
Source: Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, AZ)
Copyright: 2008 Arizona Daily Star
Author: Stephanie Innes
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


The founders of an Arizona church that deifies marijuana have pleaded
guilty to two criminal charges and are now each facing up to 20 years
in prison.

But Dan and Mary Quaintance, founders of the Church of Cognizance,
remain confident that they will not end up behind bars. Although
sentencing in federal court is set to take place within the next 75
days, the Quaintances are confident an appeal will keep them out of

The couple on Aug. 18 pleaded guilty to two counts relating to their
2006 federal arrest - one count of conspiracy with intent to
distribute 200 pounds or more of a mixture or substance containing a
detectable amount of marijuana; and one count of possession with the
intent to distribute 100 pounds or more of a substance containing a
detectable amount of marijuana, as well as aiding and abetting.

The sentence will depend on the discretion of the judge, said Dan
Quaintance's lawyer, Jerry Daniel Herrera.

Dan Quaintance believes freedom of religion will prevail, and predicts
the case could go as far as the U.S. Supreme Court.

"It was tough to plead guilty, but really we were just pleading to
what we said we did. There is no doubt we had marijuana with us," he

"We think ultimately the courts will see that we are just people using
marijuana for our religion. It's the First Amendment. We think we've
got a pretty good case."

The Quaintances live in Pima, Ariz., which is about 90 miles northeast
of Tucson. They returned to their home after pleading guilty.

The pair, both in their 50s, had attempted to have the charges against
them dismissed on the grounds that marijuana is part of their
religion. A U.S. District Court dismissed that appeal, and the
Quaintances said that's why they pleaded guilty - without the religion
defense they knew they'd be convicted at trial.

But now that the case has been concluded, the Quaintances expect the
appellate court to reconsider the religious argument.

The Church of Cognizance, which leaders say has "monasteries" in
members' homes nationwide, has this motto: "With good thoughts, good
words and good deeds, we honor marijuana: as the teacher, the
provider, the protector."

The Quaintances don't grow their sacrament but, rather, say they rely
on donations of it, which they pick up from church "couriers." They
say that's what they were about to do when they were arrested. The
pair say they founded their Church of Cognizance in Pima in 1991.

In court documents, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office said
the Quaintances are "obsessed and focused on marijuana," and Dan
Quaintance's writings about his worship are "disjointed, poorly
supported, illogical ramblings."

Both Dan and Mary Quaintance stepped down as leaders of the church
after their arrests. They continue to submit to court-ordered urine
tests twice per month.

"It has affected our lives dramatically," Quaintance said

"We just celebrated our 35th anniversary and it's the third year we
haven't been able to celebrate in our customary way. We'd always
celebrate with some herb. All those years we've had together, we've
always been close to the herb."
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MAP posted-by: Steve Heath