This morning at 9 a.m., White Rock city council will hold a special meeting to hear an appeal from a religious organization that uses marijuana as a sacrament.
Council has maintained that Church of the Holy Smoke founder Robin Douglas contravened provincial building regulations and failed to obtain building permits when he erected tents at 14737 Marine Drive.
At a closed July 13 meeting, council approved a motion ordering Douglas, who's a tenant, to "remedy health and safety concerns" created by the structures.
Council's motion declared that "smoke, garbage and noise have been the subject of complaints from neighbours" and that the structures "are an eyesore, are unsightly and out of character" with the area.
The motion authorizes the city's chief administrative officer to oversee the removal and disposal of the tents by July 24.
According to a Peace Arch News story, Douglas opened the church in April to create a refuge for people to enjoy cannabis and to keep marijuana "off the beach and off the street".
A sign states that nobody under the age of 18 is allowed into the area.
Douglas refers to himself as a pastor in a hand-written letter in the council package. He accused the city of "a lack of understanding or unwillingness to work in a framework to resolve this matter".
"The fact that city council and the mayor and councillors went behind our backs and went ahead with this action shows that we are not living in a free country," Douglas wrote.
He emphasized that he and others should have had a chance to discuss their differences with the mayor and council.
Douglas is not the first to claim that marijuana is a religious sacrament.
Vancouver author and marijuana activist Chris Bennett told the Straight in 2005 that he initially linked marijuana with spirituality while reading the Book of Revelations. He cited a passage mentioning the "Tree of Life", which produces leaves for the healing of nations.
"I was overcome with this feeling that light was pouring into my body, and I started thinking that all these fruits are like the paper, the fuel, the hemp, seed, food, and the healing leaves was medicine," Bennett said at the time.
Bennett has claimed that the war on drugs is, in effect, a religious crusade against pot users akin to Christians forcing pagans to convert in the past.
Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of religion and it applies to bylaws passed by municipal governments.
However Section 1 states that any rights and freedoms in the charter are subject to "reasonable limits" that "can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society".