Two Wisconsin men are handing out marijuana as a sacrament at a Rastafarian church, but officials in Madison are not wholly on board with the idea.
In fact, city officials are trying to stop it, the Madison State Journal reported.
Since March, Jesse R. Schworck and Dylan Paul Bangert have been accepting donations to distribute the marijuana to parishioners at the Lion of Judah House of Rastafari church, the newspaper reported. The men argue the practice is based in religion and is not breaking any laws. On its Facebook page, the church describes itself as “Wisconsin’s first & only lawful Rastafari cannabis sanctuary.”
"We all have to agree that we all break bread and use this one sacrament: cannabis," Schworck told WISN.
The church has been fighting legal battles with Madison city officials. On March 26, Madison police confiscated several jars of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, the Journal reported. On April 10, police sent the church’s landlord a formal notice of public nuisance, writing that the property was “being used to facilitate the delivery, distribution or manufacture of a controlled substance,” the newspaper reported.
On April 12, the Madison city attorney’s office delivered a cease and desist drug nuisance letter to Schworck and Bangert, the Journal reported. The letter states the sale of marijuana or THC products is illegal in Madison and in Wisconsin, the newspaper reported.
The use of cannabis, or Kaneh-bosm, is part of religious practice, the soft-spoken Schworck said during interviews at the property.
“These things have been blessed since the beginning,” he said. “We just live life according to life itself. It’s what we know. We talk it and walk it. We are exercising inalienable rights.”
Madison Alderman Mike Verveer said he believes marijuana should be legalized but said it is very unfortunate that Schworck and Bangert “are flouting the law in such an open way,” the Journal reported.
“If indeed they are a bona fide church, they have a right to operate within the city zoning code,” Verveer told the newspaper. “That does not give them the right to openly flout state law. I do support the city attorney’s effort to end the illegal sale of weed there.”
Schworck and Bangert disagree, basically following the idea in Peter Tosh’s 1976 song, “Legalize It”: Legalize it /Don't criticize it/Legalize it, yeah. yeah/And I will advertise it.”
“We’re not trying to convert people to something,” Schworck told the Journal. “If they have an inclination to learn more, we’re willing to share more.”
City officials are standing firm.
. “It seems to me one gets your weed and smokes your weed 24-7 and we’re good,” Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Zilavy told the Journal.
Schworck said he will file an injunction in federal court to maintain the church’s policy, the newspaper reported.
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