THC Ministry Under Fire
The founder of the Hawaii Cannibis (THC) Ministry, Roger Christie, was arrested by federal agents along with 13 other church members on July 8, 2010. Though the other 13 members were released on personal recognizance bonds, Christie has been held without bail by the District Court despite appeals and a bond recommendation of $50,000.
Christie, and his church, has maintained that he is a minister who administers marijuana as a part of a sacrament. According to the Ministry, marijuana is used in a sacred practice through prayer and meditation for worship, nutrition, healing, and fellowship. Unfortunately, the federal government doesn't it see it that way.
Hawaii's medical marijuana law does allow people certified by a physician to posses a certain amount to treat debilitating conditions. But according to the US attorney Florence Nakakuni, "there is no law that protects his allegations of using marijuana religious." It is believed by federal prosecutors that Christie's ministry was using religious freedom as a front for a larger illicit drug organization.
This raises the question, how does the government determine religious expression when dealing with plant medicine? The case of the Santo Daime is brought to mind, when in the early 90's they were facing religious persecution with using the sacred daime medicine, ayahausca, which was then overturned in court granting them religious practice. But the case with marijuana appears to be a bit more difficult to prove.
The country is undergoing a major shift in regards to prohibition of marijuana, and with something as popular as cannabis, granting religious freedom would be a sure step towards legalization for recreational use. With a country, and world, in economic and spiritual turmoil, legalization seems like the logical choice, but one that the current paradigm may not be ready to make.
Image: "Hawaii Cannabis Ministry" by mixed meters on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.