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The Healing Church Smokes Weed at Roger Williams National Monument

Yesterday, on May 17th 2015, a group of five people gathered for a religious ceremony at the Roger Williams National Monument in Providence, Rhode Island. Such a small crowd might have gone unnoticed and unreported, but for the fact that they were members of The Healing Church — and they were smoking weed.
The setting is most appropriate: Roger Williams was an early settler and Protestant Reformer who founded the town of Providence in 1636, after he was exiled from Salem, Massachusetts for preaching unpopular doctrines. Those ideas that were so demonized are sacred to us now, such as the separation of church and state, the abolition of slavery, and the rights of Native Americans. The monument that bears his name also enshrines the values of universal human rights and religious freedom.
So it’s only fitting that The Healing Church would choose it as a place of worship.
The religious ceremony was led by Anne Armstrong, ordained minister since 2002. She led the group in prayer, which included smoking marijuana and annointing members foreheads with cannabis oil. It didn’t take long for park officials to take notice, and soon enough a park ranger came to inquire. They told the church members that they could not violate the Controlled Substances Act on park grounds. Armstrong presented her ordination papers, as well as a permit that she had acquired to hold a church service of 100 people in the park on May 23rd, 2015. Park officials tried telling her that the group needed a permit for their gathering yesterday, but Armstrong defended the groups right to assemble, to pray, and to use cannabis as a religious sacrament, citing a 2010 free speech ruling (Boardley v. U.S. Dept. of Interior) that upholds the right of small groups to gather and express themselves in public parks.
The group then proceeded to smoke and pray for another hour, with being disturbed. On their way out of the park, they were questioned by the police, and that encounter was recorded and posted to YouTube:

As you can see, there were no fines, citations or tickets issued (personal use is decriminalized in Rhode Island; possession of less than an ounce warrants no arrests or jail time). It was a peaceful end to a peaceful gathering, and it sets a major precedent in the move toward cannabis legalization and decriminalization.
It may not seem like a big deal at first glance, but it is. A group of citizens were able to smoke pot on government property and walk away unmolested. Constitutional rights—freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion—triumphed over the federal ban on cannabis and controlled substances. That’s pretty big.
It clearly shows that there is indeed a seismic shift going on in the way the public, the government, and even law enforcement approaches marijuana. If it can happen in Providence, it could happen anywhere.
Cannabis smoking could be coming soon to a park near you 😉
statue of Roger Williams, photo from wikipedia

Is the U.S. Finally Changing Marijuana Policy

Is the U.S. Finally Changing Marijuana Policy?

sanjay gupta_legalize
Since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, cannabis has been classified by the U.S. government as a Schedule 1 narcotic. Which means that it is considered a dangerous and highly addictive substance with no known medical use. In recent years, scientific studies have repeatedly found that cannabis does indeed have powerful medicinal qualities, casting doubt upon that dubious Schedule 1 classification.
But Uncle Sam has always made a point of ignoring that evidence… until now.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently updated their official position on medical marijuana to say:

“The FDA has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as a medicine. However, scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana, called cannabinoids, has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. Continued research may lead to more medications.”

An article by Mike Adams, which was published on many major cannabis sites, goes so far as to say that the government admits that pot kills cancer. While I can find no evidence of that, it is a promising sign that the NIDA is using such pro-cannabis language on their official website.
The President has also voiced his support for medical marijuana. In an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Obama was quoted as saying, “I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact be appropriate, and we should follow the science as opposed to the ideology on this issue.” He also expressed his support for decriminalization, saying, “The more we treat drug abuse from a public health model, and not just from an incarceration model, the better off we’re going to be.”
Well, if we put aside the fanatical War on Drugs ideology and follow the science, I don’t see how we can possibly justify continued prohibition. There are countless research and case studies which demonstrate the healing properties of marijuana. Dr. Gupta, who has become one of the biggest champions of the medical marijuana cause, tracked down many of these cases in his documentary series WEED:

Marijuana is beneficial in treating chronic pain, glaucoma, epilepsy, nausea, appetite disorders, anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, addiction, insomnia, and even cancer. This is not speculation—it’s proven by science, and by real people whose lives have actually been saved by cannabis.
A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Congress called the CARERS Act (which stands for Compassionate Action, Research Expansion, and Respect States) that would re-classify marijuana as a Schedule II substance, and open the doors for more research, medical use, transport across state lines, and hopefully help solve the current banking problem faced the cannabis industry. The bill is currently being considered by a Judiciary Committee, and if passed it would mark a new age in United States drug policy—one determined by reason, not by fear.
Subscribe to Weed Reader to stay informed on this issue. Make sure you are registered to vote in your district, and contact your Senators and Congressmen! Let ’em know that you support the CARERS Act, and encourage them to do the same.
Together, we can change U.S. marijuana policy, and make sure that this natural, herbal medicine is available to all those who need it.

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Missouri Man Serving Life Sentence For Pot Might Be Paroled

On March 11th, the House Corrections Committee voted 11-1 to forward Missouri HB 978, a bill that would grant parole to inmates serving life sentences for non-violent marijuana offences. The bill was introduced in response to extensive campaigning on behalf of Jeff Mizanskey, a 61 year old grandfather who has spent more than 20 years behind bars for possession of marijuana.
Mizanskey was arrested in Sedalia MO in 1993, for being present during a drug deal gone wrong. Atilano Quintana, a known drug dealer being investigated by U.S. Customs, was picking up a hundred pounds of pot from New Mexico, and he brought Jeff along as his driver. His sources – Jose Reyes and Jorge Ibaudo – were to meet him at a local motel with the goods, but they were pulled over by highway patrol on the way into town. Cops found the drugs, and they arranged a set up to catch the buyer, Quintana, in the act. Mizanskey was just a “bonus,” in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The delivery guys were rewarded for their cooperation: Reyes served a year in county jail, Ibaudo was released without charges. Quintana, the intended buyer, and known drug dealer, served ten years.
Mizanskey was sentenced to life in prison, without possibility of parole.
Jeff is a victim of the “prior and persistent offenders” statute, which set a three-strikes-you’re-out policy for Missouri drug offenders. Only that statute was found to be cruel and ineffective, and has since been repealed (effective 1/1/2017). But the revision isn’t retroactive, and Mizanskey is still behind bars, and out of appeals. His only chance at going home to his family is for the governor to grant him clemency, or for Missouri lawmakers to pass HB 978.
If you’d like to support the #freejeffmizanksey movement, add your signature to the petition here.


I Believe In Cannabis

I believe in cannabis.
I believe that it’s medicinal properties far outweigh those scant few risks that haven’t yet been debunked by scientific research. I believe that, whatever negative side effects there may be from smoking weed, they are far less harmful than those of the pills you see advertised on television every 15 minutes. And I believe that more and more medical applications will be discovered with time.
I believe that cannabis prohibition has done more harm than cannabis itself. Making marijuana illegal creates a black market for a plant which could be grown in anyone’s garden, making it possible for hustlers and gangs to profit from what should be freely available for all. It turns peaceful, law abiding people into “criminals,” who are then harassed and persecuted, handcuffed and thrown in jail. Every day, innocent people have their careers and their finances destroyed, their families torn apart, and their lives turned upside down, just for kicking back and smoking a little grass.
I believe that the urge to get high is normal and natural, felt by all people, and indulged in a variety of different ways. Some people drink beer to feel good, others prefer wine or coffee. Some people go jogging or rock climbing; others go out dancing, or eat a pint of ice cream. Everyone has something that they do to relax and make themselves feel better, whether it’s yoga or television, prayer or rock music, sex or shopping.
I believe that most people who condemn marijuana haven’t even tried it, and are merely afraid of what they don’t understand. Those same folks all probably have their own way of “taking the edge off,” which is likely more harmful and addictive than cannabis, just not against the law.
But I am not afraid to try anything: cigarettes and booze, drugs and pills, yoga and chanting, prayer and meditation, music and dancing, fasting and feasting… I’ve done it all. I have found that compared to many of the “approved” substances – like alcohol, tobacco and anti-depressants – cannabis is a relatively harmless way to catch a buzz. It may not be as healthy as a good work out, or a good fuck, for that matter, but it makes them both more fun. And it’s certainly a lot better for you than compulsive eating or shopping, or zoning out in front of the TV.
Getting high helps me to be a healthy, sane and active member of society. Smoking this herb makes me feel more alive. It makes music sound better, and food taste better, and the tedious routines of everyday life just a little bit more exciting. It helps me to appreciate art and poetry, and the beauty of nature. It energizes my mind and body, and inspires me to think for myself, to ask deep questions, and ponder the wonder and mystery of existence. It stimulates my creativity, and makes my writing more lively and interesting.
I believe that smoking a joint while taking a walk outside is absolutely one of the best and most pleasant things a person can do, anytime, night or day, rain or shine. Your worries and stress just melt away, replaced by a joyous, innocent curiosity about all the little things we tend to overlook. It awakens a sense of awe and gratitude, a sense of connection to and harmony with the natural world.
I believe that the “cannabis state of mind” can contribute to our happiness and well-being, as individuals and as a society. I believe it can inspire great works of art, therapeutic personal insights, and brilliant technical innovations in all fields of human endeavor (both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were pot smokers). I believe that being high shows us the benefits of slowing down and “taking it easy,” and that it can help us find contentment and meaning in a world out of balance.
I believe in cannabis.
I believe that the philosophical ramblings of stoners everywhere (myself included) are worth reading and contemplating. There really might be whole universes within the atoms of our fingernails. The world is much more strange and intricate, more amazing and beautiful than we realize – and I believe that cannabis can help us to see and appreciate it more fully.


Why is Weed Illegal?

For purposes of clarity the term ‘cannabis’ will be used in this post to mean marijuana, pot, hemp, weed or whatever you happen to call it.
Cannabis has not always been illegal in the US. The history of the plant and its uses can help us to understand why things are now the way they are.
Back in 1619, when the only English colony in the Americas was Virginia, the then King of England decreed that every colonist grow 100 cannabis plants. The harvested plants were to be exported to England and used primarily for the manufacturing of cloth and rope. For use on sailing vessels.
England has a long history of sending its representatives to distant parts of the globe for the purpose of conquering them. And one the earliest means of transportation was by sailboat.
Canvas, which is a sturdy fabric originally made from hemp, has qualities that make it excellent for sail making. The word canvas is derived from the 13th century Anglo-French canevaz and the Old French canevas. Both may be derivatives of the Vulgar Latin cannapaceus for “made of hemp,” originating from the Greek κάνναβις (cannabis). (From Wikipedia)
The American colony of Virginia, and later the rest of the English Colonies, produced cannabis to meet the demands of the Crown and for their own use. Rope and sturdy fabric being essential to early colonial life.
It was not until the mid 1800’s that cannabis began to play a role in pharmaceuticals. Although cannabis has been used ‘recreationally’ since around 3000 BC.
At about the same time the US government began to play an increased role in the lives of its citizens as the enforcement arm of Big Business.
Without human intervention, cannabis is a weed. Ideal conditions for maximum crop yields are narrow, however the plant will grow and thrive to the extent necessary to produce seed and ensure the survival of the species in a wide range of climates and soil conditions.
Even if you don’t take human intervention into consideration, cannabis has been through a lot and yet has managed to migrate and thrive far from its origins in Asia.
Which posed a problem for the early pharmaceutical industry. If people could grow, trade and consume a weed with medicinal benefits as well as being fun to use then why would they bother to purchase some concoction from a store?
Enter legislation restricting and eventually prohibiting the possession, trade and use of cannabis.
And to make their reasoning as convincing as possible rumors began to spread that cannabis was poison. Which resulted in it being classified as a Schedule One Substance. Along with peyote, psilocybin and mescaline.
War has a long history of fueling economic growth. In 1971 then US President Richard Nixon declared War on Drugs leading to a law enforcement frenzy and the arrest and imprisonment of millions of US citizens. As well as creating a shot in the arm for the US economy.
It is interesting to note that the use of natural substances has historically been associated with minority groups. Of interest is Latin America and cannabis. Between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn in the Americas lies an area well suited for the clandestin cultivation of illegal plants.
Rugged, mountainous terrain and a poorly developed infrastructure both lend themselves to hectares being dedicated to growing cannabis and coca. Coupled with a culture that keeps the vast majority of people in poverty, the cultivation of these plants has become a staple for many poor and rural people.
The criminalization of these plants has created an extensive black market. With exorbitant prices and a cash business policy, drug lords have and continue to fight to protect their investments and earnings. An estimated $320 billion USD in profits are realised by the illegal drug trade every year. Which is funneled into the mainstream economy.
And the pharmaceutical industry is left to its own devices to create and market concoctions that develop clients rather than cures. Worth another $300 billion USD a year. And you and I left to bear the resulting death, destruction and reduced health and wellness.
History has shown that government and big business can go against public opinion for only so long. While the naysayers continue to push their pot is poison rhetoric, John and Jane Q. Public have begun to voice their discontent.
As this is written the US states of Colorado and Washington have legalized cannabis for recreational use. And it is projected that other states will soon follow.
But there is the opinion of the US Federal Government. Cannabis is still considered to be a Schedule One substance and as such is illegal in all 50 US states.
‘They’ are now admitting that the sheer number of violators makes the enforcement of some laws unadvisable. Such would bog down the already slow wheels of justice.
So progress is being made – but there is a price.
Big Business has begun to study the plant and its effects in an effort to isolate and market some of the chemicals found in cannabis. And the government is inventing new ways of harassing users – other than outright prohibition.
Weed will eventually be legal. However we’re not there yet and many challenges have yet to be overcome.
It would be nice to sit back, fire up the bong and enjoy a smoke. And we can every once in a while. But complacency will bear disastrous fruit. There are petitions to sign, rallies to attend and emails to send. The work of pro weed organizations needs our support and donations. And our collective voice must be heard at the ballot box.
The powers that we have allowed to be can ignore us for only so long. Society will change. But remember, your effort is required. Your voice must be heard. The old adage ‘together we stand, divided we fall’ has never been truer.
I challenge you to take the money you would spend on weed for a day once a week and donate it to pro weed advocacy. I challenge you to donate a day a month to circulate a petition or in some other way further our cause.
Join an online forum or community and let your voice be heard. And above all let the politicians know that it is pointless to run for office IF they do not support the decriminalization of weed.
“United We Stand”

Life in Prison… For Weed?!

When you hear of someone serving life in prison, you probably wouldn’t picture Michael Pelletier.
Michael has been in a wheelchair since the age of 11, when he was run over by a tractor on his father’s farm. In 2008 he was convicted of smuggling pot across the Canadian border into Maine. He was sentenced to life without parole.
It sounds incredible, that someone could receive a life sentence for a non-violent marijuana offense. But Michael is not alone.
Randy Lanier is a champion race car driver who is serving a life sentence in Florida. Randy was arrested for selling marijuana, his first offense. There were no weapons or violence involved. He was convicted of administrating a “continuing criminal enterprise.” He has been incarcerated since 1987.
That’s more than 20 years in prison for selling weed!
Now Randy practices yoga and meditation. He teaches classes and counsels other inmates. He writes a blog about walking the spiritual path behind bars.
George Martorano has been in jail for half of his life. He plead guilty to marijuana trafficking on the advice of his attorney, and was sentenced to life without parole. That was in 1982. George is possibly the longest incarcerated non-violent offender in the United States.
He is also an award-winning poet and a published author. He teaches Ashtanga yoga, creative writing, suicide prevention and release preparation to fellow inmates in Coleman Correctional Facility.
Kenny Kubinski is a Vietnam War veteran with three purple hearts and a bronze star. He was an active member of his small farming community; he ran a construction company and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity.
That is until 1993, when a drug task force raided his home, seized his property, and charged him with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish. He was convicted on the basis of some (highly suspect) testimony from witnesses, who in turn had their sentences dropped or reduced. He is now serving a life sentence in South Carolina.
His wife Jackie was sentenced to seven years. Their three children were put into an orphanage, until friends from their church took them in.
Then there’s Larry Duke, another Vietnam veteran now serving two consecutive life sentences in a Georgia prison after being busted in a government set-up in 1989. John Knock and Claude du Boc are each serving life sentences following a 1994 case that was riddled with fraud and malpractice. Billy Dekle is serving two life sentences for smuggling marijuana into the United States in his plane – in the late 1970s.
The list goes on: Craig Cesal in Illinois, Leopoldo Hernandez in North Carolina, Andrew Cox in Virginia, Paul Free, Craig Frazier and Maurice Foley in California. Cornell Hood was sentenced to life in Lousiana – but two charges have since been dropped, and his sentence reduced to 25 years. Eugene Fischer also served 25 years of a life sentence before his sentence was reduced to time served. He was freed on July 16, 2012.
In every case, the charge is possession and distribution of pot. No guns. No violence. Just “intent” and “conspiracy.” These are people who have lost their freedom, lost their property, who lost everything, because of growing, selling, and consuming a plant.
In many cases their sentences were lengthened because they insisted on exercising their right to trial. Others are repeat offenders subject to mandatory minimum sentencing. Some were convicted based on flimsy evidence, by over-zealous prosecutors intent on seizing their sizable assets.
All are victims of the so called “War on Drugs.”
The draconian policies and harsh penalties of the late 1980s have left us quite a legacy: more than 3,200 prisoners in the United States are currently serving life sentences for non-violent crimes, most of them drug related. And while states are slowly repealing these unforgiving laws, it is too late for the men and women already behind bars for victimless crimes.
We are undergoing a sea change in the way the public thinks about drugs, and marijuana in particular. Recent polls show that more than half of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized, while an overwhelming 86 percent support its medicinal use. 76 percent of people polled said they did not think small amounts of marijuana should result in any jail time, and 67 percent of people support treatment and rehabilitation as the primary means of dealing with even hard drug use.
Meanwhile Colorado and Washington are leading the way in recreational legalization, and similar legislation is being considered in more than a dozen other states. All of which leaves me wondering…
Why on earth are people serving life sentences for pot?
free jeff mizanskey
People like Jeff Mizanskey, who was arrested in 1993 for being present during a drug deal gone wrong. He accompanied Atilano Quintana to pick up a big delivery at a Super 8 motel in Sedalia, MO – unfortunately for them, the delivery guys had been busted on their way into town. The police were waiting to catch Quintana red-handed, and Mizanskey was just a bonus.
Quintana, the buyer, served ten years. Mizanskey, a repeat offender who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, got life.
Without the possibility of parole.
“Since I’ve been here in prison,” Mizanskey told an interviewer, “I’ve met lots of people in for murder, rape, robberies, all sorts of violent crimes. I’ve seen a lot of them go home on parole. Don’t I ever get a chance?”
There are at least a dozen people sentenced to die behind bars because they were caught with weed. How is this okay?
Many of these men have been exemplary prisoners, and have made the most of the rehabilitation programs available to them. And in cases like Lanier and Martorano, they have indeed gone above and beyond: becoming leaders and role-models in the prison community, pioneering new ways of teaching and rehabilitating inmates, and preparing them for their release.
Haven’t these men paid their “debt to society?” In some cases, many times over?
Visit to find out more about these men and their stories. Sign a petition, contact your congressman, join the movement calling for clemency.
Because no one should be in jail because of a plant.

UPDATE: Since this article was written Jeff Mizanskey had his sentence commuted by Missouri governor Jay Nixon. He went before a parole board on August 7th, and his parole was granted. He’s expected to be sent home to his family any day now.