Toronto judge rejects pot smoking as a religious right
TORONTO - A religious group has lost its bid to be exempted from Canada's marijuana laws.
The Church of the Universe uses the drug as a sacrament and argues the law infringes on their freedom of religion rights under the charter.
Prosecutors had told a Toronto judge that allowing the church's application would effectively legalize marijuana, as others would claim a religious right as well.
Justice Thea Herman ruled against the church today.
The constitutional challenge came in the case of two church members charged with trafficking marijuana.
Peter Styrsky and Shahrooz Kharaghani allegedly sold pot to undercover officers in 2006, and their case is back in court Feb. 21.
Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an application from church founders Walter Tucker and Michael Baldasaro for leave to appeal their 2007 marijuana trafficking convictions.
The men sold small amounts of pot to an undercover police officer who posed as a new church member.
On its website, the church refers to marijuana as God's "Tree of Life" and that God's children have a right to use it as a sacrament in "their lives and worship."
"Church members are encouraged to surround themselves with the holy Tree of Life, not just inhaling it, but wearing it, growing it, writing on it, eating it, etc.," the site reads.
"They decide for themselves ways and times to use God's Tree of Life."