City of Newport Beach sues for illegal pot dispensary…
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) A church in southern California has been unlawfully operating as a marijuana dispensary, claiming that the “use of marijuana is a lawful exercise of religion.”
The city of Newport Beach has filed suit against the Church of the Holy Grail for operating as a facility to “unlawfully sell, serve, store, keep or give away marijuana in violation of federal, state, and local law.”
Marijuana is legal in California, but to sell it, a business must receive licensing and zoning approval, which the church has not done.
Businesses must also follow the Medicinal ad Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, which requires that marijuana-related activities comply with local laws.
The church is fighting the lawsuit.
In a letter, Cristian L. Peirano, an attorney for Holy Grail, said the church’s use of marijuana is “lawful” because it’s a part of their “religion.”
A similar case occurred in April when the church leaders of the Vault Church of Open Faith said smoking marijuana is a part of spiritual meditation and religious sacrament.
“We don’t ever question when they serve wine to minors at Catholic churches,” Brent Fraser, a founder of the church, told the Mercury News. “No one’s trying to shut them down. That doesn’t happen to the Catholic Church because that is their sacrament.”
The Jurupa Valley city officials said the church was using religion as a front for illegally selling pot.
“The bottom line is they are selling marijuana illegally,” Gary Thompson, the city manager, said. “We have proof of that.”
Fraser said the church doesn’t serve as a dispensary, though.
“These are not dispensaries. They are spiritual centers. They are healing centers,” he said.
A hearing is scheduled for later this month to decide whether the Church of the Holy Grail has violated state law.
Attorney Lou Shapiro commented on the case, saying, “the issue in the case is religion cannot be used to circumvent municipality laws.”
“The government is not restricting people from exercising their religion,” Shapiro told CBS. “Rather, they are saying you can practice religion, but it has to be within the confines of the law.”