Religious Freedom: Cannabis Churches Seek to Intervene in UDV Ayahuasca Case With Amicus Brief Arguing Broad Interpretation 8/12/05

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A group of cannabis spiritualists are seeking to use the case of a religious group arguing before the Supreme Court that its use of ayahuasca, an Amazonian entheogen, is protected religious practice, to urge the court to extend a religious freedom ruling to include marijuana. In the case before the court, the Santa Fe-based American branch of the Brazilian Union of the Vegetable (UDV), has so far prevailed in the federal courts on its claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects its sacramental use of the substance.

Led by Eddy Lepp, the California resident who is facing two life sentences for his efforts to grow marijuana at Eddy's Medicinal Gardens and Multi-Denominational Church of Cannabis and Rastafari, the cannabis spiritualists are advancing the argument that although the courts have, since a case brought by Timothy Leary, refused to rule that religious use of cannabis is protected, the courts in the UDV case have used the Leary precedent to find that its use of the psychedelic sacrament is protected.

The problem is that the rulings in the UDV case have been so narrow that a victory in that case would benefit hardly anyone but the UDV. "If the Supreme Court looks at this issue we're raising now," said Lepp, "it would be easy for them to apply it to all these substances. For them to deny that marijuana is a sacrament just isn't right," Lepp told DRCNet. "I don't see what's so hard to understand. If they're going to let people in the Deep South French kiss rattlesnakes and drink cyanide in the name of religion, you'd think they could accept marijuana's religious uses."

Lepp and his allies have contacted Southern California constitutional authority Prof. Gerald Uehlman to draft an amicus brief in the pending Supreme Court case, and they are appealing to their fellow cannabis churches, of which they estimate there are roughly one hundred in the US, to kick in money to pay his $20,000 fee. They are also accepting donations for the battle from the public at large -- the filing deadline is September 9.

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Issue #399 -- 8/12/05

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