VAIL VALLEY, Colorado --An Vail Valley man is furious over a misdemeanor charge for possession of marijuana because he says it violates his religious rights.
Trevor Douglas, 25, of Avon, was recently pulled over in Georgetown by a Colorado State Trooper for having expired license plate tags. When the trooper smelled marijuana in Douglas' car, Douglas showed him the pipe and less than one ounce of marijuana he had in the car.
Douglas said the court is trying him for his religious beliefs and thinks that laws banning marijuana are off base.
Douglas, who lived in Hawaii before moving to Colorado, said he's a member of the THC Ministry, also known as the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry. The Web site for the ministry shows its motto as "we use cannabis religiously and you can, too."
"If it's part of your religion, you should get security from this prosecution of possession," Douglas. "That's how it is in Hawaii."
Douglas is quickly learning that Colorado isn't Hawaii - while medical marijuana is legal in Colorado, marijuana is still illegal. The THC Ministry also lists that the Hawaii County Police Department is the only jurisdiction in the world with rules for its police officers about the religious use of marijuana.
Douglas thought that he could flash his church identification card to the Colorado trooper and that would clarify Douglas' use of the drug and he'd get out of charges against him.
"I'm not a drug abuser by any means," Douglas said. "Cannabis is the main sacrament in my religion."
Douglas said his religion is nearly identical to Christianity, but it's the sacrament - cannabis - that is different. Just like Christians who use wine and bread, Douglas said cannabis is equally sacred for him.
"The tree of life, I personally believe it's the hemp plant, which is cannabis," Douglas said.
Douglas can't afford an attorney, but said he's been doing research before his March 9 court date. He said that marijuana has been grown in the United States for hundreds of years and has only been illegal for the last 70. He said the U.S. government's recognition of marijuana as a preventative drug contradicts Colorado's laws allowing it for medicinal uses for those with doctor permission to use the drug.
If it's preventative, Douglas said, everyone should be allowed to use it without having to go to a doctor first.
Regardless of medical uses, Douglas said pot is literally part of his religious beliefs and he wants to be excused for that.
"The original sacrament of Christianity is cannabis," Douglas said. "The court is basically trying me for my religious beliefs."
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.