Recent Articles

Recent Comments

« | Main | »

Police label minister a drug-dealer for using cannabis in services

By Hempology | August 2, 2007

Contra Costa Times, CA
28 Jul 2007
Andrew Glazer


Clergyman Based in Hollywood Says Marijuana ‘Is the Tree of Life Mentioned in the Bible’

LOS ANGELES — A minister with mail order credentials who faces drug charges for distributing marijuana through his Hollywood church argued unsuccessfully this week that federal law protects his use of the drug because he believes it is a religious sacrament.

The Rev.  Craig Rubin, 41, the leader of the 420 Temple who has appeared in episodes of the Showtime comedy “Weeds,” faces as many as seven years in prison if convicted of possessing marijuana for sale.  Jury selection was to begin Wednesday.

He and about 400 members of his church believe marijuana is a religious sacrament and burn and smoke it during services. 

“We feel pot is the tree of life mentioned in the Bible, so it is incorporated into the ceremony,” Rubin said before the hearing began.

Though he was ordained in 1990 by the Universal Life Church — which, for a fee, will ordain anyone — police and prosecutors describe Rubin as a drug dealer.  The Beverly Hills-born minister was arrested last fall and freed after posting $20,000 bail.

Rubin, who is representing himself, has asserted his protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a 1993 federal law designed to prevent government from imposing laws that restrict religious freedoms.

During Tuesday’s hearing, however, Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel ruled that Rubin could not use the federal law as a defense because he faces only state charges.

Rubin told the judge he would file a writ challenging her ruling and would consider a plea deal if it stands.

“I have to get myself a private lawyer,” Rubin said in an interview afterward.  “I’m getting knocked around in there.”

Both the defense and the prosecution said they could not find any cases in California where marijuana use was found acceptable on religious grounds.  Deputy district attorney Bob Chen seemed astounded that Rubin has never denied possessing and distributing the marijuana.

“It seems to me he is conceding that at this temple, they were selling marijuana,” he said.

Rubin, wearing a red tie and neat pinstriped black suit, nodded and smiled.

Rubin alleges federal agents joined police on the November raid and that authorities used excessive force when arresting congregants.  The federal law mandates that police, when there is a compelling government interest, may intervene using “the least restrictive” means.  Rubin said he will testify that an officer held a shotgun to his head during the bust.

Rubin, a UCLA graduate with no legal experience, fluently cited prior cases and appeared to answer the judge’s questions to her satisfaction.

A lawyer consulting on his case commended his legal acuity.

On Monday, however, Rubin was unaware he would be called to select a jury.  He said he spent the weekend praying and smoking with Indians in a sweat lodge at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Topics: Articles | Comments Off

Comments are closed.