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Cannabis is 'our cross, tree of life,' say accused pot priests


TORONTO (RNS) Two self-described priests who use cannabis as a sacrament are challenging Canada’s drug laws after a police raid found marijuana and hashish at their church.

Brother Peter Styrsky and Brother Shahrooz Kharaghani, who belong to the Assembly of the Church of the Universe, say the cannabis plant is sacred to their religion.

In a court challenge expected to end this month, the men argued before Ontario Superior Court Justice Thea Herman that they should be exempt from marijuana legislation because the laws violate their freedom of religion under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Styrsky testified in court on April 7 that consuming the drug brought him closer to God.

“It’s the most spiritual thing that has ever happened to me,” said Styrsky, adding that the cannabis plant was the basis of his religion. “In a nutshell, that’s our cross. It’s a tree, tree of life, tree of knowledge.”