Friday, January 29, 2010

Court of Appeals Harshes Bogus Religion's Pot Buzz

No, you can't have special permission to smoke weed because you're part of a non-religious religion, said the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to Marc Perkel, founder of the Church of Reality.

While smoking weed nine years ago in San Bruno, Perkel came up with the idea for the Church of Reality, a "reality-based" religion that embraces smoking pot as a gateway to inspire creative thinking and "really good ideas." It has since become a tax-exempt non-profit and amassed thousands of followers. The church philosophy, according to the Web site, is essentially this: "If it's real, we believe in it."

Though not necessary for Church of Reality practice, weed is apparently a really important aspect. So eventually Perkel decided to ask the Drug Enforcement Administration for an weed exemption from the Controlled Substance Act under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The DEA said no way.

It likely didn't help that the Church of Reality isn't even really a religion. Even if it was, the inability to lawfully smoke weed doesn't impose a substantial burden on the exercising members, the DEA said.

Perkel wasn't satisfied that. He filed a petition for a review of the order with the 9th Circuit, stating that marijuana "has been misclassified and is a relatively harmless substance" used by church members to "inspire creative thinking, for medical purposes, relaxation, and socially -- like social drinking." He admitted, though, that the drug isn't consumed during any particular ritual or ceremony and that its prohibition would not coerce the members to act contrary to their beliefs (or, uh, non-beliefs).

Perkel's best argument, according to the court's denial of his petition, was that withholding weed causes members "a diminishment of spiritual fulfillment." Still, this didn't quite quality him for protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Bummer!

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