Source:   Victoria Times Colonist
Contact:    April 10, 1997 (p. A5)


By Kim Westad (TC Staff)

Biblical references were key Wednesday in a hemp advocate's court bid to
have some drug laws ruled contrary to the Charter of Rights.  Ian
Hunter, the head of the B.C. Hemp Council, is challenging laws making
possession and cultivation of marijuana illegal, and possession of magic

The laws contravene several sections of the Charter, including religious
freedom, Hunter says.  Chris Bennett testified as an expert in the
sacramental use of marijuana, and as an expert in the Church of the
Universe, of which both he and Hunter are ministers.  Ingesting
marijuana is a religious act in the church and is an integral part of
their religious experience, Bennett testified in B.C. Supreme Court.

The main belief of the church is marijuana is the biblical tree of life,
and that its leaves can be used to heal all nations.  He
enthusiastically read aloud several biblical passages to bolster his
argument that marijuana has been used as a religious sacrament since the
time of Christ.

Moses used sacred oil, imbued with cannabis, as a way to divine
revelation, Bennett said.  "This was not considered using a drug or
dope.  This was a very religious act."

Cannabis has been used by numerous other religions, he testified,
including some sects of Hindus and Rastafarians.  Some in society tend
to look at marijuana smoking as "smoking dope" or a way to get high, he
said.  But if you believe in the plant, and its sacramental use in
mythology and history, it's much more than that.

"Its intent is spiritual, to provide religious experience.  A person's
experience relies on their belief system".  In the Church of the
Universe, members say a small prayer while the joint is passed, or touch
it to a person's "third eye."  An ageold belief says in the middle of
the forehead  the third eye  is a third area of perception. Cannabis
awakens that area of the brain and opens up the brain for wider
perceptions of reality, Bennett said.

The hearing continues today before Justice Montague Drake.  Hunter is
representing himself, and has a 97page written legal argument.  He
wasn't much fazed by a breakin overnight at his Johnson Street store,
The Sacred Herb, a hemp shop.