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Judge smacks down pot-using church

  |   Feb. 8, 2011 at 9:18 AM
TORONTO, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- A judge has ruled a Toronto church that uses marijuana as part of worship is not constitutionally immune from criminal drug trafficking charges.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Thea Herman turned down the application by the Church of the Universe to be exempted from drug charges based on the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, Postmedia News reported Tuesday.

Peter Styrsky, 53, and Shahrooz Kharaghani, 32, claimed the church's central belief was that smoking marijuana enabled them to better communicate with God, the report said.

The pair were arrested Oct. 25, 2006, by undercover police and charged with trafficking in marijuana and hashish in the church.

The men argued they only allow adults into the church and everyone signs a declaration of faith.

In her ruling dismissing the constitutional challenge, Herman said she believed the men were sincere in their beliefs and weren't profiteering, but said the Criminal Code was clear.

"There was also some evidence that the applicants provided high-quality cannabis at a reasonable price," she wrote.

The two men will return to court Feb. 25 to determine if they will face a jury trial on the charges, the Toronto Star said.

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