Guide for medical cannabis ministers
and medical marijuana ministers

    This is a Guide for medical cannabis ministers and medical marijuana ministers.

    This Guide outlines some of the topics you may need to prepare for in order to have a successful legal defense in both federal (U.S.) and state (California) court for working as a medical marijuana minister or medical cannabis minister in a California medical cannabis collective, dispensary, or cooperative.

    Exact material will vary greatly by religion. I provide examples from my own religion, although many of the examples may not apply to your religion. You will want to prepare your own defense, probably with the help of a lawyer skilled in first amendment and criminal law.

Meyers’ Test

    The government can question whether or not the beliefs are religious in nature. The most common test is the so-called Meyers’ Test used in the case of UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. David MEYERS, Defendant-Appellant, United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, November 5, 1996, 95 F.3d 1475.

legal standards

    The Meyers’ Test:

    1. Ultimate Ideas
    2. Metaphysical Beliefs
    3. Moral or Ethical System
    4. Comprehensiveness of Beliefs
    5. Accoutrements of Religion
        a. Founder, Prophet, or Teacher
        b. Important Writings
        c. Gathering Places
        d. Keepers of Knowledge
        e. Ceremonies and Rituals
        f. Structure or Organization
        g. Holidays
        h. Diet or Fasting
        i. Appearance and Clothing
        j. Propagation


    The following is a direct quotation from the Appeals Court decision.



    Just prior to trial, the government discovered that Jones had lied to investigating officers in his initial statements by omitting Recore’s middleman role in the conspiracy and by stating that he dealt directly with Meyers when in fact he dealt primarily with Recore. Jones allegedly lied pursuant to an agreement between Meyers, Recore, and himself which provided that if caught Recore and Jones would intentionally blame Meyers for the entire conspiracy so that Meyers could “try out” his religious freedom defense.

    At trial, Jones testified that from January to July, 1994, he would receive between five and seven pounds of marijuana from Recore every seven to ten days; in July, 1994, he traveled to El Paso, Texas, to obtain marijuana from Federico at the direction of Recore, who was acting at the direction of Meyers; and at the end of August, 1994, he traveled to Tucson, Arizona, to meet with Meyers’ cousin, Mitchell Meyers, and obtain four pounds of marijuana. Recore testified that he was receiving all the marijuana he distributed to Jones from Meyers and that he was acting at Meyers’ direction by delivering the marijuana to Jones.

    Before trial, Meyers filed numerous motions including motions to dismiss based on religious freedom under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et. seq. (RFRA). At the hearing on Meyers’ religious freedom defense, Meyers testified that he is the founder and Reverend of the Church of Marijuana and that it is his sincere belief that his religion commands him to use, possess, grow and distribute marijuana for the good of mankind and the planet earth.

    After a careful and thorough analysis, the district court concluded that the neutral drug laws at issue were not subject to a First Amendment free exercise challenge and that Meyers’ beliefs did not constitute a religion for purposes of the RFRA. United States v. Meyers, 906 F.Supp. 1494, 1509 (D.Wyo.1995). Therefore, the court denied his motion to raise a RFRA defense.


    B. RFRA

    Meyers argues that the district court erred in refusing to recognize his interpretation of his own religion and in refusing to give his beliefs the status of religion under the RFRA.

    In response to the Court’s rejection of the compelling governmental interest test in Smith, Congress passed the RFRA reestablishing the compelling interest test of Sherbert, 374 U.S. 398, 83 S.Ct. 1790, 10 L.Ed.2d 965, and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 32 L.Ed.2d 15 (1972), as the analytical framework governing all cases where free exercise of religion is substantially burdened. 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb(b)(1).

    The RFRA provides that “[g]overnment shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section.” § 2000bb-1(a). Subsection (b) provides that:

    Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person--

    (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

    (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

    42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(b).

    Under the RFRA, a plaintiff must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, three threshold requirements to state a prima facie free exercise claim. Thiry v. Carlson, 78 F.3d 1491, 1494 (10th Cir.1996). The governmental action must (1) substantially burden, (2) a religious belief rather than a philosophy or way of life, (3) which belief is sincerely held by the plaintiff. Id. The government need only accommodate the exercise of actual religious convictions. Werner v. McCotter, 49 F.3d 1476, 1479 n. 1 (10th Cir.) (citing Yoder, 406 U.S. at 215-19, 92 S.Ct. at 1533-35; Thomas v. Review Bd., 450 U.S. 707, 713-18, 101 S.Ct. 1425, 1429-32, 67 L.Ed.2d 624 (1981)), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 115 S.Ct. 2625, 132 L.Ed.2d 866 (1995). Once the plaintiff has established the threshold requirements by a preponderance of the evidence, the burden shifts to the government to demonstrate that the challenged regulation furthers a compelling state interest in the least restrictive manner. Werner, 49 F.3d at 1480 n. 2 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(b)).

    Our review of the requirements, although largely factual in nature, presents mixed questions of fact and law. Thiry, 78 F.3d at 1495. We review the meaning of the RFRA de novo, including the definitions as to what constitutes substantial burden and what constitutes religious belief, and the ultimate determination as to whether the RFRA has been violated. Id. Sincerity is a factual matter and, as with historical and other underlying factual determinations, we defer to the district court’s findings, reversing only if those findings are clearly erroneous. Id.

    There is no dispute that Meyers’ beliefs are sincerely held and that they are substantially burdened by 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 and 846 and 18 U.S.C. § 2. The issue is whether his sincerely held beliefs are “religious beliefs,” rather than a philosophy or way of life. In analyzing this issue, the district court examined the cases that have delved into the question of “what is religion” and catalogued the many factors used to determine whether a set of beliefs is religious in nature.2 Meyers, 906 F.Supp. at 1501. The court then used its list of factors to examine Meyers’ beliefs to determine if his beliefs fit the factors sufficiently to be included in the realm of “religious beliefs.

    Keeping in mind that the threshold for establishing the religious nature of his beliefs is low, the court considered the following factors:

    1. Ultimate Ideas: Religious beliefs often address fundamental questions about life, purpose, and death. As one court has put it, “a religion addresses fundamental and ultimate questions having to do with deep and imponderable matters.” Africa, 662 F.2d at 1032. These matters may include existential matters, such as man’s sense of being; teleological matters, such as man’s purpose in life; and cosmological matters, such as man’s place in the universe.

    2. Metaphysical Beliefs: Religious beliefs often are “metaphysical,” that is, they address a reality which transcends the physical and immediately apparent world. Adherents to many religions believe that there is another dimension, place, mode, or temporality, and they often believe that these places are inhabited by spirits, souls, forces, deities, and other sorts of inchoate or intangible entities.

    3. Moral or Ethical System: Religious beliefs often prescribe a particular manner of acting, or way of life, that is “moral” or “ethical.” In other words, these beliefs often describe certain acts in normative terms, such as “right and wrong,” “good and evil,” or “just and unjust.” The beliefs then proscribe those acts that are “wrong,” “evil,” or “unjust.” A moral or ethical belief structure also may create duties--duties often imposed by some higher power, force, or spirit--that require the believer to abnegate elemental self-interest.

    4. Comprehensiveness of Beliefs: Another hallmark of “religious” ideas is that they are comprehensive. More often than not, such beliefs provide a telos, an overreaching array of beliefs that coalesce to provide the believer with answers to many, if not most, of the problems and concerns that confront humans. In other words, religious beliefs generally are not confined to one question or a single teaching. Africa, 662 F.2d at 1035.

    5. Accoutrements of Religion: By analogy to many of the established or recognized religions, the presence of the following external signs may indicate that a particular set of beliefs is “religious”:

    a. Founder, Prophet, or Teacher: Many religions have been wholly founded or significantly influenced by a deity, teacher, seer, or prophet who is considered to be divine, enlightened, gifted, or blessed.

    b. Important Writings: Most religions embrace seminal, elemental, fundamental, or sacred writings. These writing often include creeds, tenets, precepts, parables, commandments, prayers, scriptures, catechisms, chants, rites, or mantras.

    c. Gathering Places: Many religions designate particular structures or places as sacred, holy, or significant. These sites often serve as gathering places for believers. They include physical structures, such as churches, mosques, temples, pyramids, synagogues, or shrines; and natural places, such as springs, rivers, forests, plains, or mountains.

    d. Keepers of Knowledge: Most religions have clergy, ministers, priests, reverends, monks, shamans, teachers, or sages. By virtue of their enlightenment, experience, education, or training, these people are keepers and purveyors of religious knowledge.

    e. Ceremonies and Rituals: Most religions include some form of ceremony, ritual, liturgy, sacrament, or protocol. These acts, statements, and movements are prescribed by the religion and are imbued with transcendent significance.

    f. Structure or Organization: Many religions have a congregation or group of believers who are led, supervised, or counseled by a hierarchy of teachers, clergy, sages, priests, etc.

    g. Holidays: As is etymologically evident, many religions celebrate, observe, or mark “holy,” sacred, or important days, weeks, or months.

    h. Diet or Fasting: Religions often prescribe or prohibit the eating of certain foods and the drinking of certain liquids on particular days or during particular times.

    i. Appearance and Clothing: Some religions prescribe the manner in which believers should maintain their physical appearance, and other religions prescribe the type of clothing that believers should wear.

    j. Propagation: Most religious groups, thinking that they have something worthwhile or essential to offer non-believers, attempt to propagate their views and persuade others of their correctness. This is sometimes called “mission work,” “witnessing,” “converting,” or proselytizing.

    Meyers, 906 F.Supp. at 1502-03 (footnotes omitted).

    The district court emphasized that “it cannot rely solely on established or recognized religions to guide it in determining whether a new and unique set of beliefs warrants inclusion” and that “no one of these factors is dispositive, and that the factors should be seen as criteria that, if minimally satisfied, counsel the inclusion of beliefs within the term ‘religion.’ ” Id. at 1503. However, in accord with Yoder, the court noted that “[p]urely personal, political, ideological, or secular beliefs probably would not satisfy enough criteria for inclusion.” Id. at 1504. See Yoder, 406 U.S. at 216, 92 S.Ct. at 1533-34 (philosophical and personal beliefs are secular beliefs); Africa, 662 F.2d at 1036 (finding beliefs are secular not religious); Berman, 156 F.2d at 380-81 (beliefs which are moral and social are not religious); Church of the Chosen People, 548 F.Supp. at 1253 (beliefs which are sexual and secular are not religious).

    After carefully examining Meyers’ beliefs derived from his testimony, the district court concluded that his beliefs were secular and, thus, did not constitute a “religion” for RFRA purposes. Meyers, 906 F.Supp. at 1509. The court concluded that:

    Marijuana’s medical, therapeutic, and social effects are secular, not religious.… Here, the Court cannot give Meyers’ “religious” beliefs much weight because those beliefs appear to be derived entirely from his secular beliefs. In other words, Meyers’ secular and religious beliefs overlap only in the sense that Meyers holds secular beliefs which he believes so deeply that he has transformed them into a “religion.”

    While Meyers may sincerely believe that his beliefs are religious, this Court cannot rely on his sincerity to conclude that his beliefs rise to the level of a “religion” and therefore trigger RFRA’s protections. Meyers is, of course, absolutely free to think or believe what he wants. If he thinks that his beliefs are a religion, then so be it. No one can restrict his beliefs, and no one should begrudge him those beliefs. None of this, however, changes the fact that his beliefs do not constitute a “religion” as that term is uneasily defined by law. Were the Court to recognize Meyers’ beliefs as religious, it might soon find itself on a slippery slope where anyone who was cured of an ailment by a “medicine” that had pleasant side-effects could claim that they had founded a constitutionally or statutorily protected religion based on the beneficial “medicine.”

    Id. at 1508. Finally, the court noted that “Meyers’ professed beliefs have an ad hoc quality that neatly justify his desire to smoke marijuana.” Id. at 1509.

    We agree with the district court. Under the district court’s thorough analysis of the indicia of religion, which we adopt, we hold that Meyers’ beliefs more accurately espouse a philosophy and/or way of life rather than a “religion.” The district court did not err in prohibiting Meyers’ religious freedom defense.


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    The courts have already ruled in multiple cases that a person who starts preparing a religious defense (including gathering certificates and other paperwork) after arrest loses all chance to use the late religious defense. It is essential that you prepare your defense before you are arrested. Adequate preparation may even prevent arrest.

    This website is concerned with religious matters and only obliquely discusses the law. I strongly recommend that medical marijuana ministers rely on a high quality lawyer.

    I (Milo) use my own religion as an example, because this is the religion I know well. I strongly urge people to get together with their lawyer and prepare a similar discussion for their own religion. Again, my religion is only an example.

    Good news: Many people over the years have successfully used Pr Ntr Kmt religious cannabis certificates. The author of this website has personally several times over more than a decade shown various police Pr Ntr Kmt documentation and the police have politely returned the religious cannabis. There are at least two Pr Ntr Kmt cannabis ministers who have been released after the police discovered several pounds of religious cannabis (although the police kept the cannabis). There are numerous real world successes.

    Reality: If the government decides it wants to “get you”, then your only chance is if you can afford a really, really good lawyer.

    The law is whatever the government decides the law is.

    The rights you heard about in grade school only apply if you can afford a great lawyer. Public defenders are under-budgeted and only want to process paperwork for plea bargains. They simply don’t have the time or money for trials.

    We don’t want to discourage anyone from worshiping with cannabis, but we do want to strongly warn everyone that you have a significant risk of long term imprisonment or worse, especially outside of major industrialized nations.

    Please act responsibly. Please hire a lawyer if you can possibly afford to do so.


    The courts have already ruled in multiple cases that a person who starts preparing a religious defense (including gathering certificates and other paperwork) after arrest loses all chance to use the late religious defense. It is essential that you prepare your defense before you are arrested. Adequate preparation may even prevent arrest.

    Get a Pr Ntr Kmt certificate as proof that your cannabis religion is real.

    These web pages contain religious advice. These web pages are not professional legal or medical advice. Nothing on this website should be considered as a substitute or replacement for professional medical, health, or legal advice. All persons should seek the advice of qualified medical, health, or legal providers.

    If you spot an error in fact, grammar, syntax, or spelling, or a broken link, or have additional information, commentary, or constructive criticism, please contact Milo at PO Box 1361, Tustin, Calif, 92781, USA.

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Copyright © 2010 Milo.

Created: July 15, 2010

Last Updated: July 15, 2010

May Goddess Bast grant YOU love, peace, joy, bounty, and wisdom.