Medical Marijuana

Donate Your Rights to A Rasta


Can the city of L.A. shut down a church if it sells pot, or shut down a pot store if it's a church, or….? Details on a new lawsuit challenging L.A.'s attempted shutdown of most of its medical pot dispensaries from the L.A. Weekly:

The City Attorney's office sent letters to most of the dispensaries in town warning them they'd have to close down under a stricter city ordinance. Apparently Liberty Bell Temple II was targeted as a pot shop and some of its leaders were subsequently arrested when the city determined it had not shut down as ordered.

R. Edward Forchion, Charquant Leyou, and the Liberty Bell Temple II itself filed suit in Superior Court alleging that the city has infringed on their right, without due process under the law, to practice their religion.

"Liberty Bell II operated as a Rastafarian temple where marijuana was used as a sacrament," the suit states.

The suit asserts that Rastafarians consider marijuana a sacrament. Plaintiffs asked for a court order to prevent the city from interfering in this higher calling.

These kinds of silly messes are inherent in a system whereby you will or won't get tossed in the pokey for an action based on status and motive, a world where some things are maybe OK if you are doing it for a religious or medical reason, and if not, not. For more on that point and the weird history of L.A.'s attempts to manage the non-problem of storefront pot, see my May Reason magazine cover story.

Reality and history indicate that this religious defense for pot use will surely fail in court, but bless the Liberty Bell Temple II folk for trying. For much, much more on the history of religious defenses for drug law exemptions, including one sort of promising but probably not dispositive for these guys 9th Circuit case from 2002, see Jacob Sullum's great May 2007 Reason magazine feature.


NEXT: California Roundup: In Space No-One Can Hear You Inhale

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Does Market Fundamentalism count as a religion?

  2. Did marijuana even exist in Iran when Rastafarianism arose?

    1. Marijuana (or cannabis used as a drug in some way or other) has existed in Iran longer than in most places. And wasn’t Rastafarianism founded in Jamaica? Maybe you are thinking of Zoroastrianism?

      1. Yes I was. I will punish myself appropriately.

        1. Keep in mind that Marijuana first grew in what is now Afghanistan:

          1. Better link:


    2. WHAT? Rastafarianism has nothing to do with the country of Iran?

      1. No, but Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari) was emperor of Ethiopia.

  3. LOL let’s file a lawsuit challenging the direct holding of a recent supreme court case. Bad Idea Jeans imo

  4. LOL let’s file a lawsuit challenging the direct holding of a recent supreme court case. Bad Idea Jeans imo

  5. As far as I can see, the establishment clause means that the government cannot decide what is and is not a religion. So if I start a religion today whose only tenet is that all adherents must smoke pot every day, then that is a religion as good as any other as far as the government is concerned (of course I know that is not how it works out in the courts).
    This is why there will never be any consistency about allowing drug exceptions for religious practice (unless they just decide to not tolerate any of it). It would mean adopting a sane and just drug policy.

  6. Islam does not provide a wife beating shield or child stoning shield. No wife burning protections here for other faiths either. I applaud the efforts of their lawyer and his billing clerk.

  7. Liberty Bell Temple II

    Fucking tea-partiers

    And why is Benicio Del Toro in the sidebar with a bong?

  8. The way this works is that you can’t give special treatment (good or bad) under the law to a particular religion or to individuals because they are members of a particular religion. Equality before the law, see?

    They will lose.

    1. Then why can certain American Indians eat peyote legally?

  9. Back when I was at Rutgers I talked to Forchion, who was running for Senate(?) under his new legal name, NJWeedman. Then that motherfucker up and moved to California. When I set my herb on fire, I think of him.

    1. DANG – you called me a motherfucker!! We its true i guess. i’ve fucked plenty of mothers. (oops how religious is that going to be interpreted) – any. SEE THIS:


  10. Religious exemptions from law are a violation of the first amendment, IMO. Surely, marijuana shouldn’t be illegal and murder should be, but with the law as it is I can’t see a consistent, clear rationale for giving Rastafarians a free pass for weed and putting neo-Aztecs in the slam for mass human sacrifice that doesn’t undermine the legitimacy of the laws in question.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.