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Politics

California’s Cannabis Priestess Arrested on Felony Charge

October 4, 2017

Three weeks ago, Rev. Heidi Grossman-Lepp—a self-proclaimed medicine woman and cannabis queen, pro per litigant and savvy entrepreneur who celebrates her nickname, “Sparkles”—stood before the five older gentlemen on the Yuba County, California, Board of Supervisors and delivered unto them a fiery sermon demanding recognition and respect for cannabis as a religious sacrament.

Since founding the Sugarleaf Rastafarian Church late last year, Heidi Grossman-Lepp has been criticized and condemned. Yesterday she was arrested.

Grossman-Lepp is the founder of the Sacramento-based Sugarleaf Rastafarian Church, a cannabis-worshiping congregation known for its skill at organizing marijuana farmers under the guise of spirituality. Since forming the church in late 2016 with her husband, longtime cannabis activist Eddy Lepp, she claims to have signed up more than 300 churches that grow and celebrate cannabis as a godly ritual. And she’s drawing a fire of condemnation: police raids, arrests, code enforcement actions and accusations of profiteering under the legal umbrella of federal religious protection.

After a long summer of discontent in Yuba County, Grossman-Lepp rose before the county supervisors to face down her skeptics and scorners.

“I am going to stand here and speak because it is my right,” she thundered, according to her account of the meeting. Grossman-Lepp steamrolled past the 10-minute time limit for public comment. Two sheriff’s deputies in the board room approached. She dared officers to arrest her “for telling the truth.”

On she went, defending the rights of the church and its followers to plant, cultivate, distribute and share its holy sacrament. She protested abatement notices that local governments in Northern California were filing over unlicensed marijuana gardens. She condemned police raids stripping away plants and their sacred, flowering blessings.

Her sermon concluded, Grossman-Lepp exited the meeting accompanied by a deputy. She was not detained or arrested.

But yesterday, the authorities came for her.  On Tuesday morning, Oct. 3, Heidi Grossman-Lepp was arrested in Sacramento on a felony conspiracy warrant, along with misdemeanor counts of marijuana cultivation and possession for sale. Narcotics officers in Yuba County also raided a church-affiliated property as part of enforcement actions against ten allegedly connected illegal cannabis farms.

Her arrest came almost exactly two months after the incident that precipitated what now looks like a series of unraveling events for the Sugarleaf Rastafarian Church. That incident began early on the morning of August 1, when a cannabis trimmer named Mark Anthony Sanchez showed up at the garden of a Sugarleaf-associated church in a rural town about 70 miles north of Sacramento.

Does this banner confer legal protection? Heidi Grossman-Lepp thinks so.

The August 1 Shootout

On that morning, Heidi Grossman-Lepp got a phone call from Dante Jones, a member of a Sugarleaf satellite church in the remote town of Oregon House, about 70 miles north of Sacramento.

Jones sounded anxious.

'This is Reverend Heidi,' she told the police on August 1. 'We have a madman with a gun desecrating our property.'

An angry, disturbed man was acting strangely, he told Grossman-Lepp. The man, an itinerant laborer hired to work in the Oregon House cannabis garden, was pacing and muttering just beyond the farm’s gate, where a banner reads, “This garden belongs to ONAC Sugarleaf and Rev. Heidi Grossman.” Jones, 34, belonged to a Sugarleaf-affiliated satellite church known as the Yuba Tree Church.

When the angry man began yanking out the Yuba Tree Church’s marijuana plants, Jones ventured out to speak to him. “He was acting strangely, weird,” Jones later recalled. “I got alarmed. I approached him…That’s when I realized he had a gun. He pointed it directly at me and threatened me.”

Grossman-Lepp advised Jones to back away. Then she called 911.

“This is Reverend Heidi,” she told a sheriff’s dispatcher. “We have a madman who has a gun and he is desecrating our property.”

Officers search for a suspect after a shooting at a Sugarleaf-affiliated cannabis grow in Yuba County, Calif., on Aug. 1, 2017. Two sheriff’s deputies were shot and wounded after they responded to reports of an armed and agitated man pulling up plants. (AP Photo/Sophia Bollag)

Two Yuba County deputies, Phillip Bronson and Andrew Everhart, arrived within minutes. They chased the man out of the garden. He fled to a nearby property, and then into a neighbor’s trailer. The officers entered. There was an exchange of gunfire. The deputies fell from multiple wounds. A third deputy, Daniel Harris, pulled the injured deputies away from the trailer and called for emergency medical attention. Bronson had been struck by two bullets; Everhart had been shot in the arm. Both deputies survived the shooting.

The garden laborer, Mark Anthony Sanchez, 33, was killed in the exchange of gunfire.

The shooting galvanized local police. They’d watched all year as the Sugarleaf Church expanded its affiliates and membership. They’d taken a live-and-let-live position. But not anymore.

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Raids Across the Region

In the weeks that followed, police executed raids on church properties and cannabis farms across Northern California.

'I'm the sheriff, she’s a drug dealer.'
Vern Warnke, Merced County Sheriff

In August and September, law enforcement authorities served search warrants and eradicated hundreds of marijuana plants at seven Sugarleaf affiliates in Tehama, Merced, Yolo, Madera and Calaveras counties. On Tuesday, search warrants were served on the Yuba Tree Church farm and authorities eradicated its 207 plants, said Yuba Sheriff’s spokeswoman Leslie Carbah. She said six people were arrested at the farm and 18 in total. 

In Calaveras, where supervisors had allowed licensed cultivators to grow a half-acre of plants outdoors, authorities conducted raids that took down 29,000 plants at unpermitted sites. The sheriff and state water officials particularly assailed a Sugarleaf Church affiliate for growing seven acres of plants while illegally damming streams, syphoning water and leaving pesticide contamination.

Furious, Grossman-Lepp charged that the raids violated the sect’s religious freedom. The police actions, she said, were akin to sending armed agents “into a Catholic Church to smash all the wine, destroy all the communion and arrest people for worshipping.”

Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke had a simple answer to that. “I’m the sheriff, she’s a drug dealer,” he said. Officers in Warnke’s jurisdiction ripped out 131 plants at two church-affiliated properties. The San Joaquin Valley county bans cultivation of more than 12 plants for medical use. “It’s putting lipstick on a pig,” Warnke told the Merced Sun-Star. “She wants to be a commercial grower.”

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Responding With a Lawsuit

The Lepps insisted in recent interviews that they weren’t participating in cultivation by church members, and they were furious over being cast as rogues and outlaws. They rejected critics’ allegations that their church was nothing but a profit-making scheme to sign up California marijuana farms as churches only in order to skirt state and local cannabis regulations.

“The notion that we are selling churches is an out-and-out fucking lie,” Eddy Lepp told Leafly in an interview last month at the couple’s home in Sacramento’s urban midtown. He says the couple is financially struggling as they fight for their right to practice cannabis spirituality. “People say I’m doing something wrong and I’m not. I am following the creator.”

Heidi Grossman-Lepp met Eddy Lepp when he was in prison, doing 10 years for cannabis cultivation. She was inspired by his work helping medical patients.

Grossman-Lepp, who is not an attorney, has drafted and filed 19 lawsuits or legal motions challenging government or police intrusion. One the suits was against Merced County. Grossman-Lepp saying she couldn’t wait to get the sheriff on the witness stand over that “lipstick on a pig” comment.

In June, she filed a federal lawsuit alleging harassment by code enforcement officers in Yuba County who were trying to enforce a local ban on outdoor marijuana cultivation. The suit said the church was wrongfully being denied its federally protected right “to practice our religion without the fear of being threatened, intimidated, discriminated, stalked, harassed, defrauded, taxed, fined or lied to.”

The civil action shows nothing if not a flair for the dramatic. The list of named defendants include California Gov. Jerry Brown, Sen. Kamala Harris, two federal judges who handled Eddy Lepp’s prosecution and probation, California marijuana regulation czar Lori Ajax, and several cannabis industry groups. Just for good measure, Grossman-Lepp added Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton for their failure to end the War on Drugs.

The Sugarleaf church leaders are seeking $215 million in general damages (in the name of California’s Proposition 215 medical marijuana law), $420 million in special damages (for marijuana’s numeric nickname) and $720 million in punitive damages (with the 720, when upside down, spelling OIL as in cannabis oil.)

The Lepps also included an extra special third plaintiff in the lawsuit.

That would be Lucky Lepp, who is identified in court papers as “a four-legged individual.”

Lucky Lepp is Eddy Lepp’s service dog, a sweet, yellow-coated chihuahua who provides comfort amid the mounting chaos.

The Backstory: When Heidi Met Eddy

The romance of Heidi Grossman and Eddy Lepp began well before they actually met.

It was when Eddy became Heidi’s hero.

Grossman read about Lepp while a student.

She learned of him while taking classes in 2009 at Oaksterdam University, Oakland’s famed marijuana trade school. She admired his intellectual bond and friendship with the late Jack Herer, author of the famed anti-prohibition manifesto, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. She read voraciously about how Lepp became California’s first medical cannabis defendant, raided by local authorities in Lake County over a 132-plant garden soon after the passage of the state’s 1996 Proposition 215 medical marijuana initiative.

Lepp was acquitted on the state charges. By the early 2000s, his cannabis farm had been listed by High Times as one of the “Greatest Marijuana Gardens of All Time.” The honor was well earned. At its height, Lepp’s farm boasted 32,524 plants. He called it “Eddy’s Medicinal Gardens and Multi-Denominational Ministry of Cannabis and Rastafari.”

He claimed the plants were being grown by—or for—2,700 medical marijuana patients. One of those patients was Linda Senti, Lepp’s wife of 18 years. A dedicated cannabis advocate in support of her husband, Senti later used the plant to help her get through thyroid cancer. She succumbed to the disease in 2007 three years after a federal raid on the garden. Two years after her death, Eddy would get sentenced 10 years in prison and picked up an admirer for his sacrifice.

At its height in the early 2000s, Eddy Lepp’s farm boasted 32,524 plants.

“He was treating sick and dying people,” Grossman-Lepp told me during a visit to the couple’s home and Sugarleaf storefront church last month. “He was traveling the world with Jack Herer and speaking to God’s intentions for the plant. I am in love with love, and what he was doing was such a kind act.”

Just as Eddy struggled with PTSD from Vietnam, Heidi also suffered from post-traumatic stress as a victim of childhood abuse. She also recalls her own exploitation by the adult film industry in the early 1990s. At age 19 she was addicted to hard drugs and booze, appeared in porn videos, and “had very much lost my soul.”

She went on to raise two daughters, take paralegal courses in community college and land a job as an office administrator for a Beverly Hills law firm. In 2004, that firm filed the first lawsuit on her behalf, Heidi Nelson-Grossman v. Excalibur Entertainment Inc., an action she says awarded no money but helped force removal of old pornographic images from the internet.

When Lepp went away on the cultivation conviction in May 2009, Grossman-Lepp became a loyal pen pal with the man she studied at Oaksterdam. What began as a written correspondence blossomed into twice-monthly phone calls and, eventually, in-person visits at various federal prisons.

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The Startup Years

As Eddy sat in stir, Heidi founded and grew her own successful business. She saw how medical marijuana calmed her own PTSD, and recognized an opportunity to help others and create a thriving business. Her Sugarleaf Consulting firm drafted paperwork to organize some 200 cannabis producers as non-profit mutual benefit corporations that operated as patient collectives under California’s medical marijuana law.

'I started working to help people get licenses. Heidi went the church route. Her philosophy was that everything was legal.'
Jacqueline McGowan, former business partner

“I thought she was brilliant,” said Jacqueline McGowan, a former stock broker and medical marijuana advocate who briefly partnered with Grossman-Lepp. “She understood Proposition 215 and the attorney general’s guidelines and all the patchwork of legislation creating the legal system.”

But California’s cannabis collective system, a product of nebulous 2003 legislation that gave patients a right to associate to collectively cultivate and share their medicine, is being phased out and will sunset in 2018.

Sugarleaf sacrament, growing in the California sun. (Photo: Peter Hecht for Leafly)

That’s because Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation in late 2015 to regulate the state’s medical cannabis industry, with state and local permitting, taxes and licensing fees. Those rules were expanded to cover adult marijuana use after voters passed the 2016 recreational cannabis initiative, Proposition 64.

Jacqueline McGowan, a defendant in the Lepps’ June lawsuit, said Grossman-Lepp didn’t appear to accept this new era of cannabis regulation. McGowan did. The two parted company, with McGowan pursuing her own consulting venture.

“I started working to help people get licenses,” McGowan said. “Heidi went the church route. Her philosophy was that everything was legal.”

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‘Cannabis is a Connection to the Creator’

Grossman-Lepp doesn’t exactly dispute that characterization. She came to share Eddy’s belief in “cannabis as a connection to the creator,” a creed he forged in the 1990s though months of telephone counseling with a Rastafarian minister in Jamaica.

Her distrust in California’s regulated cannabis economy hardened after a police action in September 2016. A medical marijuana collective that Grossman-Lepp had helped organize in Yolo County, across the Sacramento River from the state capital, went on to get a local cultivation permit and a state water use permit. All of that good faith paperwork, though, didn’t stop a raid by an out-of-county drug task force.

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Distressed, Heidi spoke by phone to Eddy in prison. He urged her to form a cannabis church.

“But you went to prison for that,” she argued.

No, that’s not the reason, Eddy insisted. He was convicted on the federal cultivation counts only because the federal judge had been indifferent to his religious defense, he said. Eddy’s religious defense had also been rejected on appeal.

Caught in a Bad System

In an interview with Leafly last month, Lepp said he believed that the judge violated two acts of Congress and a United States Supreme Court ruling on religious freedom. He cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which prohibits government agencies from “substantially burdening” the exercise of religion, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which protects religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and land use laws.

He referred to a 2006 Supreme Court decision, Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente União do Vegetal. It upheld the rights of small American branch of a Brazilian church to perform ceremonies with a sacramental tea brewed from Amazonian plants that included dimethyltryptamine, an otherwise federally-prohibited hallucinogen.

'There is an unfair system. It's county bans, extortion, raids, fines. They keep coming up with crazy regulations they know no one is going to follow.'
Mason Thomas, Sacramento-area cannabis farmer

After that conversation with Eddy, Heidi went on to register 40 percent of her medical marijuana collective clients as affiliated members of the Sugarleaf Rastarian Church. Then she moved to further expand the congregation.

For would-be recruits, including some providing cannabis to California’s retail dispensaries, the church seemed to offer a celestial promise: to be free of government oversight, onerous taxes and fees and even outright bans on cultivation imposed by local governments.

“There is an unfair system in many counties. It is bans and extortion, raids and fines,” said Sacramento-area cannabis farmer Mason Thomas, 32. “The counties keep coming up with crazy regulations they know no one is going to follow and then they extort you [with enforcement actions] at harvest time.”

Thomas signed up as a congregation member and donated a pound of marijuana over several months for its ceremonies, in which members make offerings or savor the herb before an antique, dark wood altar at the Sacramento church. Despite the anti-regulatory bent of Sugarleaf’s priestess, Thomas secured a cultivation permit for his farm in Yolo County.

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The Feds Spring Eddy

After serving nearly nine years of his ten-year sentence, Eddy Lepp finally regained his freedom last December. Heidi Grossman-Lepp was there to greet him upon his release from a federal prison in Colorado. They flew back to San Francisco, where they embraced overlooking the ocean.

“I ended up kissing her,” Eddy Lepp recalled. “I said, ‘You know, one day, you will marry me.’ She looked at me with her little eyes and said, ‘When?’”

They were married this past June at a raucous ceremony with cannabis community members at a Sacramento wedding hall. Heidi was Eddy’s eighth wife. Eddy was Heidi’s fourth husband—or fifth, she says, if you count a one-day quickie in Las Vegas.

Controversy From the Start

The seeds of conflict in the Sugarleaf Rastafarian Church may have been planted at its inception, when Grossman-Lepp partnered with a controversial religious sect, the Oklevueha Native American Church.

James Mooney, Oklevueha’s elder and co-founder, welcomed her and agreed to let Sugarleaf operate under the ONAC banner.

“She was really spiritually oriented and very service-oriented toward people,” Mooney said. “I wanted to help. I was very impressed with her.”

Mooney and his Oklevueha church were no strangers to conflict and the court system. In 2015, the church lost a notable court ruling in which the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declared that a Hawaii branch of the church failed to demonstrate that its cultivation of cannabis constituted a bona fide exercise of religion. Despite the ruling, many Oklevueha church members continued to cultivate and consume cannabis as a sacrament. When Grossman-Lepp contacted Mooney and suggested they join forces, it seemed like a natural confluence of shared beliefs and interests.

The relationship, however, went bad nearly from the start.

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Early on, a fight erupted between Sugarleaf and Oklevueha over money and claims of deceit. The details are hazy. The upshot was clear: The two religious groups split apart after Sugarleaf began distributing a “Branch Application and Agreement” under the name of “Heidi Grossman, Founder and Queen.”

That paperwork, obtained by Leafly, appears to be seek donations of up to $35,000 for permission to establish a Sugarleaf spiritual center. The agreement also calls for annual tithes of 10 percent of each satellite center’s cannabis crop. The documents suggested a standard donation of $7,000 through a variety of payment plans.

When he read the agreement, Mooney told Leafly that he perceived it as a scam. He immediately called Eddy Lepp, who was by then out of prison.

“I said, ‘Eddy you’ve got to get out of this,’” Mooney claimed. “Our phone was ringing off the hook with people saying that they (the Lepps) were selling churches.”

The Lepps, in turn, contend that they were the victims of a fraudulent scheme. They said Mooney pressured them to collect and funnel donations to Oklevueha. Mooney denied the accusation. No money was paid to Oklevueha, he told Leafly. Mooney’s church administrator, Tracie Rutledge, said the Lepps did send funds “to the mother church”—meaning Oklevueha—but said she didn’t know how much.

On a recent autumn afternoon, binders filled with legal briefs sat piled on Heidi Grossman-Lepp’s kitchen table as she logged onto her bank account through a laptop computer. She ran through transactions from January through April, 2017. They showed $18,500 in transfers to a bank account in Mooney’s name and $7,062.50 to Rutledge, who had done work on behalf of Sugarleaf. In total, Grossman-Lepp claimed, Sugarleaf sent nearly $50,000 to Oklevueha, counting separate direct payments from church affiliates.

The Lepps said they kept less than $12,000 of that money to cover their own expenses, including office help and filing fees for lawsuits that Grossman-Lepp was bringing against police and government agencies. They say many churches were signed up for free, but they are still accepting donations—though no one has given anything close to the $35,000 figure.

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Is Any of This Actually Legal?

I asked Mark Reichel, a Sacramento attorney and former federal public defender, to review the Sugarleaf documents. “At first blush, it looks like they are franchising religion so you can grow and sell marijuana,” he said. On closer inspection, though, Reichel said the documents appeared to have been carefully drafted. They emphasized donations and not fees, spirituality and not commerce.

'It appears she has the protection of the exercise of religion. I think her defense would stand up in court.'
Mark Reichel, Sacramento attorney

“The more you read, it appears she has the protection of the exercise of religion,” he said of Grossman-Lepp. “I think her defense would stand up in court.”

Others in Yuba County disagree. Charnel James, a land use attorney who represents a number of cannabis business clients, says Grossman-Lepp and the Sugarleaf Church have become “a blight on the cannabis industry” by offering promises of legal protection they can’t guarantee.

“She is tricking property owners,” said James. “She is convincing them she can protect them. And she is attempting to practice law without a license.”

“When she can’t protect them, they are stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollars in code violations or criminal violations,” James added.

James used to represent Jevaughn Bennett, a 25-year-old property owner who got an abatement notice from Yuba County for growing marijuana despite a local ban on outdoor cultivation. Bennett and three associates, including Dante Jones, removed their plants last year and paid fines exceeding more than $100,000.

James said she tried to negotiate a solution, encouraging Yuba County supervisors and staff to draft more permissive cultivation rules. But she says those efforts blew up when local farms began reorganizing as Sugarleaf Rastafarian branch churches.

One of those was Jevaughn Bennett’s property. Bennett joined the church as an affiliate congregation, put in a new garden, and watched it grow. He adopted a new name for his operation. He called it the Yuba Tree Church and cultivated a new garden, soon blooming with a Sugarleaf banner at the gate.

“Our expectation this year is that we will get our sacrament and will be at peace with the community,” he said.

Then yesterday, authorities tore the second garden down—and arrested Bennett.

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Feathers, Sage, but No Cannabis

Under the terms of Eddy Lepp’s five-year federal probation, he is prohibited from using cannabis. He wears a drug-detecting sweat patch on his back.

At home, in the downstairs unit of a Victorian house in Sacramento’s midtown, the Lepps opt for non-medicinal rituals. The only cannabis present is some buds lacquered onto a chalice as ornamental decorations. The Lepps burned sage and prayed amid turkey and peacock feathers and a ceremonial drum gifted to Eddy by Rastafarian elders in Jamaica.

Eddy and Heidi say they don’t grow any marijuana themselves. She says her last garden was eradicated for code violations in Yuba County in 2014, an action she claims killed off cannabis genetics she valued at $1 million.

In July, Eddy Lepp filed a federal court motion to lift terms of his probation to restore his right to the sacrament.

“I am a co-founder of the…Sugarleaf Rastafarian Church,” he wrote in the pending motion. “Currently as the terms of my probation, I am prohibited from receiving sacrament within my own church.” He went on: “I have not been able to expand my consciousness with my congregation for over a decade, due to my conviction for violating laws that are quickly becoming obsolete…My probation, as it stands, is forcing me to abstain from my spiritual believes, aggravating my well documented PTSD.”

It galls him that he can’t wander through the many fragrant gardens of the Sugarleaf Rastafarian Church and offer his blessings.

But he made one exception as the Lepps recently visited the Yuba Tree cannabis farm. They made a sand sculpture, the Chinese Yin and Yang for darkness and light, in tribute to the deceased garden worker and the deputies, who are out of the hospital and recovering at home. “It was our prayer for the sheriffs and the loss of life,” Eddy Lepp said. “I did a blessing and a healing. Anytime someone is hurt, it affects us. If they want to say I violated something (in his parole) for going up there and praying for two officers, then screw them.”

Then Tuesday, Heidi Grossman-Lepp, the new bride of the California marijuana movement martyr, was taken into custody—adding to his traumatic stress.

Peter Hecht's Bio Image

Peter Hecht

Peter Hecht, former political writer and Los Angeles bureau chief for the Sacramento Bee, has been reporting on cannabis since 2009. His coverage has been honored for explanatory reporting in the "Best of the West" journalism awards and earned an Excellence in Journalism prize from the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Hecht is the author of the book “Weed Land: Inside America’s Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit.”

View Peter Hecht's articles

  • malcolmkyle

    Jesus specifically told his disciples to “anoint” people. That anointing took place using a specific formula made from a recipe found in the Old Testament book of Exodus.

    That recipe (Exodus 30:23) includes about 6 pounds of “kaneh-bosen”.

    According to many biblical scholars, “kaneh-bosen” was/is Cannabis (Marijuana).
    Most of the diseases mentioned as being healed miraculously after anointing are, curiously, the same ones that cannabis can heal today. Things like epilepsy, leprosy, and “crooked limbs” (an obvious reference to multiple sclerosis).

    Exodus 30:
    23 Moreover, the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even 250 shekels, and of qaneh-bosm [cannabis] 250 shekels, 24 And of cassia 500 shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: 25 And thou shalt make it an oil of holy anointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. 26 And thous shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony, 27 And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, 28 And the altar of burnt offerings with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot. 29 And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.

    Carl Ruck, professor of classical mythology at Boston University: “There can be little doubt about a role for cannabis in Judaic religion.”

    Basílica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Nuova di Monreale, Sicily (12th century) Jesus heals two blind men on the road to Jericho:

    https://01varvara.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/01-anonymous-christ-heals-the-two-blind-men-on-the-road-to-jericho-duomo-di-monreale-monreale-sicily-it.jpg?w=1024

    • Mark Stonebraker

      Religion has been a scourge to the human race since it was invented. Enough!

  • malcolmkyle

    Jesus specifically told his disciples to “anoint” people. That anointing took place using a specific formula made from a recipe found in the Old Testament book of Exodus.

    That recipe (Exodus 30:23) includes about 6 pounds of “kaneh-bosen”.

    According to many biblical scholars, “kaneh-bosen” was/is Cannabis (Marijuana).
    Most of the diseases mentioned as being healed miraculously after anointing are, curiously, the same ones that cannabis can heal today. Things like epilepsy, leprosy, and “crooked limbs” (an obvious reference to multiple sclerosis).

    Exodus 30:
    23 Moreover, the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even 250 shekels, and of qaneh-bosm [cannabis] 250 shekels, 24 And of cassia 500 shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: 25 And thou shalt make it an oil of holy anointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. 26 And thous shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony, 27 And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, 28 And the altar of burnt offerings with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot. 29 And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.

    Carl Ruck, professor of classical mythology at Boston University: “There can be little doubt about a role for cannabis in Judaic religion.”

    Now google: “Basílica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Nuova di Monreale, Sicily (12th century) Jesus heals two blind men on the road to Jericho.”

  • cristala

    Dear Peter, please dont paint her as some martyr. why didnt you discover the truth about ONAC and how its a fake native american church our elders put out a formal statement against this travesty, a den of thieves and sham-man wannabes. For Mooney to claim he has not sold churches is a flat out lie, the sedona brothel he sold one too has already been shut down and convicted in court. They defile everything they touch especially the medicine. I hope every ONAC chapter gets shut down forever. This is not a prohibition, freedom of religion or “free the leaf” issue it is fraud, theft and ruination of lives. There are no “rasta elders” or tribal elders guiding them its a big lie told by mooney you folks dont know the whole history, it’s much deeper than this one deal.

    • Maximus

      Thank you, I absolutely agree with you %1000, this lady has innocent blood on her hands and is cursed from it.

  • vermilion lover

    probably didnt pay for the labor ..serves her right, sounds like a tax cheat

    • Stevw Cash

      You makes some pretty bad assumptions … if its a religion and a church … then the church is exempt from taxes. Sounds like a smart lady to me.

      • Maximus

        You’re pretty stupid if you think this lady’s smart. Obviously you know nothing about her.

    • Mark Stonebraker

      You sound like a white racist defending the beating of a young black man. Same type of argument.

      • Brickey

        What exactly makes vermillion a racist? Do you know him?

    • Maximus

      Thank you Vermillion, that’s exactly what happened. Your spot on %100.

  • Stevw Cash

    Once choice of religion is another man’s choice of folly; judging someone for practicing “their” religious beliefs is hypocritical and none of your’s or the governments goddamed business.

    • Brickey

      Huh? Practicing their religion? I am so tired of people saying religious when Trump just made the move to not pay for birth control because of religious rights. BS Yeah, say it is religious to hide from the government! Come on.

      • cinderabi

        I hate the word “religious”. To me it means being up tight, ultra-conservative, and bogged down in a series of myths related to who & what we possibly are , leaving no room in the thought process for compromise, conjecture or appreciation of anyone elses’ series of myths and beliefs that possibly rule their lives. I see this as an elitist, misogynistic and bigoted attitude, and I stay away from those who profess to be “religious” because, well frankly… they scare the hell out of me with their rigid thinking as they embrace of the dark side while condemning all human “sin”, whatever that is..
        I prefer to think of my mystical ponderings as being “spiritual” instead, and I try to always be open to all possibility of the imagination in conjuring up what this crazy dimension we walk through is all about.
        Does cannabis help me to drift along these currents of thought and dream my own wild dreams about us? U betcha it does. Wish there was a church like hers around here. I’d join up with it in a minute.

        • farmerlion

          Your spiritual beliefs in essence is your own religion. Condemning other people for the same thing. Is being a bigot. Many have served this country so you can voice your opinion. Have a great day. Peace

  • Stevw Cash

    I predict that the Lepp’s will be exonerated; the charges won’t hold up in court due to religious use and freedom. This is what Lepp’s are looking for … a test for their system. Good Luck Lepp’s; the cannabis nation is behind you.

    • Scotty Myers

      She, to me, is unreasonable. Im a user for chronic anxiety/ptsd from Aspergers. I believe and ascribe in MJ as a medicine and am appreciate.
      She makes the legitimacy and acceptance issue murky and questionable. She would better help herself and others by learning to better reason on her passion instead of acting like an impetuous loon.

  • dtschuck

    I don’t have a dog in this fight but this religious things seems all hokey to me, but then, what religious thing isn’t hokey. Just ask the little sawed-off racist Attorney General from Alabamy who is using his religion to impose all kinds of things on other people.

    The primary difference between these marijuana religion and Jeff Sessions’ is the marijuana group is using religion to expand the things they are permitted to do. Sessions is using religion to impose restrictions on others to stop them from doing things he doesn’t like. Between the two, marijuana religion is less intrusive and harmful.

  • Jim Goodrich

    Genesis 1:29 And God said,Behold,I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is on the face of all the earth , and every tree,in which is the fruit of the tree yielding seed ; to you it shall be for meat.

    It can’t be much clearer than that so why does the government continue to resist the will of God? I do not know of a single drug other than marijuana that meets that requirement.
    I am diabetic and have tried about every doctor prescribed drug on the market including insulin and CBD, a marijuana derived oil, is the only thing I have found that lowers my glucose to normal.

    It is my true belief that alcohol and cigarettes are far more harmful than marijuana will ever be.

  • Mark Stonebraker

    This story has no good guys. This woman, and cannabis proponents like her, only serve to add confusion to the issue. Meanwhile, old school law enforcement boys “enforce” the law (or, how they define the law) and make all law enforcement officers look like thugs. What a complete mess.

    • Maximus

      Thank you! preach it brother.

  • Billyd

    For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Jesus Yeshua is King of Kings and Lord of Lords

    I have seen a lot of good come out of this movement over the last 20 years and I have seen a lot of bad. Police shootouts, Tax evasion, Disgruntled workers/trimmers, Allegations of fraud in the guise of religious protection, this is the stuff that needs to go and the sooner the better.

    Judgements between the creator and those that claim to represent the creator should best be left alone. Were all neighbors and the cannabis community (no matter how “OG” they think they are) needs to wake up and begin to be a part of the mainstream community. Fox News will get a hold of the above soap opera and set us all back 25 years.

  • Snegurochka

    “a cannabis-worshiping congregation known for its skill at organizing marijuana farmers under the guise of spirituality.”

    A bit of nasty snark unworthy of Leafly. Numerous peoples have found spiritual value in Cannabis. Why is this “under the guise of spirituality”? It’s not all about you cashing in, Leafly!

  • Snegurochka

    “they were furious over being cast as rouges ”

    Do learn to spell “rogues”, Peter Hecht!

  • IS NOT OKAY when you pollute MY environment with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides so YOU can make $$$$$. YOU do not have that right, and ya’ll DAMN SURE ain’t Rastafarians………..you insult them with your actions….

    • Snegurochka

      The food you eat–it’s all produced with even MORE pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. So quit with your phony, staged, outrage!

  • farmerlion

    In my opinion you shouldn’t have to be a sanctioned church to practice your faith. The Bible I have read Jesus states your body is a temple. If I’m not selling cannabis, I should be able to grow my own medicine. Administering it to myself as needed for healing any of my 32 bone fractures including 3 vertebrae in my neck. My spinal fusion to my pelvic bone, or the traumatic head injury I suffered. I still work everyday providing for my family with no medical help of prescriptions from Doctor’s. I could use some time in prayer and a form of medicine that has worked for thousands of years. She wasn’t all wrong or all right. I don’t walk on water but I can see the water from where I’m walking. Peace

  • ElizabethK

    He says $720…. Nooo “OIL” upside down is 710!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ruth Hill

    She is a loon. Just what the industry needs to verify the myths out there that cannabis makes people nutty. She is a fraud giving the industry a bad name right when we are winning support in the federal legistrature.

  • Billyd

    Someone forgot to include that the church was charging almost $40,000.00 to be a satellite member of there organization. There were over 200 sign ups for satellite churches so the question really is what happened to the money ? I would imagine most are embarrassed that they fell for this scam and now they are a witness/suspect for big bird. Amazing what one can learn in the joint.

    Coptic/Rastafarianism is one of the oldest and strictest sect(s) of Jesus Christ. It is disrespectful to Rasta’s,Christians, and the Cannabis Movement for this type of fraud to continue.

  • Kristofor Gullickson

    Do not ever underestimate, exploit, or disrespect another person’s faith, spirituality, and beliefs…….That is all I have to say about that either way…….But I will give it to Eddy, they do have a legit argument…….The problem here is State v Fed…….I see the battle here, but no states want to get behind This???? Remember Salvi piante and Native American rights? She can pave the way for a legitimate path for federally mandated legal cause of religious protections across our nation. I wonder how to donate or get involved? I wish for people to see the fight and passion these people believe. We should not take anything for granted, it is a long way to redemption. Imangine the stress, frusteration, and “Reprisals” they might be going through or will face in the future of their fight. I must have fought with the VA for 10 years, and still am not satisfied. But I am content. They better believe in the Great Spirit with their whole Heart and use This time between decisions to get in touch with what they believe. That is what It comes down to people. When you pray and believe in a higher power, you must sometimes go to that power in order to satisfy the confusion, go to the power of your convictions and find within yourself the courage to fight and change the world. To live Free, be free of your religious choice and live in happiness. Unless You have been through it or feel the pain and struggles, you cannot know what it entails. These people are great people, make no mistake of this, Please I hope this story will continue to infold here on Leafly. There are many different avenues to explore here, I think the research in the Supreme Court rulings will help here as well. I mean Really get down and read the opinions and dissentions. Aside from concrete religious grounds, let us gather more information for other protections under our Constitution ad well. I appplaud the most noble efforts and do hope your sincerity will shine through, Eddy Family. Good Luck and God Bless))!!!!

  • James McGill

    I don’t understand: marijuana is legal in California.

  • Kathleen Chippi

    Thanks for the info, Peter Hecht! Appreciate the coverage in Colorado. Hopefully the paperwork is successful in the courts as the Denver based international church of cannabis will probably not be, as it was poorly (looks like intentionally) handled by Vicente and Associates. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it will resolve everyones personal issues, but getting a ruling on religious use could be and should be good for millions.

  • peterhurt@protonmail.com

    Dr Peter Hurt is 100% real and legit i just order my meds from him and got it deliver to my home address Thanks Sir Phone# (804) 537 0917

    • Solomany

      Just Got THC/CBD from Dr Peter Hurt for my Father Stage 4 CANCER VIA # 804 537 0917