Pubdate: Thu, 08 Apr 2010
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Page: 2
Copyright: 2010 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Sam Pazzano
Bookmark: (Spiritual or Sacramental)


A Toronto church - the "Church of the Universe" - asked a Superior 
Court judge Wednesday for an exemption to the country's marijuana laws.

The Church of the Universe views cannabis as a sacred substance whose 
consumption brings them closer to God, lawyers Paul Lewin and George 
Filipovic asserted.

It's believed to be the first time a Canadian court has been asked to 
define whether a religion's illegal practices are protected by the 
Charter of Rights.

"They believe cannabis is the Tree of Life and that consuming and 
sharing of it puts them in a more peaceful and reflective state where 
they are closer to God," the lawyers wrote in documents filed in court.

"They believe that cannabis consumption, although joyous, is not an 
end in itself but rather it is an important part of the road to 
greater understanding of God and the universe."

The religion teaches that Jesus Christ was anointed with a holy oil, 
which had a key ingredient of "keneh bosom," which translates as 
cannabis, court heard.

The lawyers represent Brothers Peter Styrsky and Shahrooz Kharaghani, 
minister-members of the Beaches Mission of God, Assembly of The 
Church of the Universe at 1905 Queen St. E.

The pacifist and humanitarian church has two golden rules: Do not 
hurt yourself and do not hurt others.

By outlawing marijuana, the state is infringing on the Universe 
church-goers' charter right of freedom of religion, the lawyers said.

Styrsky and Kharaghani were charged with trafficking marijuana after 
they allegedly sold pot to two undercover cops who infiltrated their 
church as members in 2006.

The ministers' lawyers are asking Madam Justice Thea Herman to strike 
down the laws prohibiting the possession, cultivation and 
distribution of cannabis-related substances because it violates the 
Church of the Universe's right to practise its religion. Or, the 
lawyers suggested in court documents, that the judge could exempt the 
two accused and all members of this church and other pot-using 
religions from prosecution for marijuana laws.

Lawyers Nick Devlin and Donna Polgar of the Public Prosecution 
Service of Canada argued the applicants' sale of marijuana and "the 
beliefs underlying it, don't possess the essential characteristics of 

"The COU is about using marijuana in whatever way the user chooses. 
This hardly conforms to the basic purpose of religious movements," 
the federal government's lawyers said in their documents.

"Simply put, the mere fact that one profoundly enjoys using marijuana 
does not beget a constitutional right to traffic it commercially."

The court should "weed out" frivolous claims, they added.
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