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Monday, April 22, 2024 | Back issues
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‘Church of Reality’ Can’t Use Pot, 9th Circuit Rules

(CN) - Members of the Church of Reality, who say the Drug Enforcement Administration is stifling some "really good ideas" by refusing to let them use marijuana, lost their appeal in the 9th Circuit.

Marc Perkel and fellow members of the Church of Reality asked the DEA for an exemption to the Controlled Substances Act that would've allowed them to possess and distribute marijuana.

The DEA denied their request, saying they failed to show that their religious practices were "substantially burdened" without marijuana.

Perkel acknowledged that the church is not "a religion that centers on marijuana or drug experiences," but said that drugs "inspire creative thinking that leads to really good ideas."

Marijuana helps members relax and be social, he added.

The church members said the DEA's refusal to grant them an exemption violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by interfering with their right to exercise their religion freely.

But to warrant exemption, the 9th Circuit ruled, the church needs prove that its members were forced to act against their religious beliefs to avoid civil or criminal retribution.

"Church members are not solicited to use the drug," the court noted. "When the drug is consumed, it is not in any particular location or during any particular ritual or ceremony.

"At most, Perkel describes a 'diminishment of spiritual fulfillment' which we explained in Navajo Nation: '-serious though it may be-is not a "substantial burden" on the exercise of religion.'"

The church says its beliefs are grounded in reality, not mythology. According to the mission statement on its Web site, "We are Realists practicing Realism, Winning Souls for Darwin!"

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