California – The Sun Newspaper reports
‘It’s not up to the courts to dictate the beliefs and practices of the church,’ says a lawyer for the Jah Healing Kemetic Temple of the Divine Church
A Big Bear City cannabis church that was shut down by San Bernardino County — and twice rebuffed in the courts in a bid to reopen — is now taking its fight to the state Supreme Court.
Jah Healing Kemetic Temple of the Divine Church, which considers cannibas a sacrament and denies the church functions as an illegal dispensary, lost its most recent challenge when the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside upheld San Bernardino Superior Court Judge David Cohn’s June 2020 decision ordering a permanent injunction against the church.
Attorney Matthew Pappas, who represents the church and its owner, April Elizabeth Mancini, has petitioned the state Supreme Court to review the appellate ruling. And he vowed to pursue the case all the way to the nation’s high court, if necessary.
“I do intend to take it as far as the U.S. Supreme Court if the California courts continue to rule against the church,” Pappas said. “There’s no guarantee the U.S. Supreme Court would hear the case, but it is an important issue.”
Fourth District opinion
In an opinion handed down on Sept. 13, a three-justice appellate panel concurred that a county ordinance prohibiting commercial cannabis activity in unincorporated areas does not violate its religious protections under federal law. And while state law allows commercial cannabis operations, it gives discretion to cities and counties to draft their own ordinances to prohibit such activity.
Additionally, the appellate panel ruled the San Bernardino County ordinance does not prohibit church adherents from possessing, blessing, or consuming cannabis products, but that it prohibits the church from selling and dispensing the drug.
And while the church maintains it is a nonprofit entity whose adherents were receiving “cannabis sacraments” for donated tithings, the three-justice appellate panel determined that did not matter.
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Shuttered Big Bear cannabis church loses court appeal to reopen, vows to continue fight