Zoroastrian Priest Testifies Against Use of Marijuana as Sacrament for "Neo-Zoroastrian" Practice

August 27, 2006

Source: KVOA


On August 27, 2006 KVOA reported, "A couple from Pima, Ariz. arrested in a car that contained 172 pounds of marijuana say the drug is a sacrament in their religion. The U.S. attorney's office contends they're trying to use religion as a cover for a drug organization. Danuel and Mary Quaintance staked their religious freedom claim in federal court here this week in a three-day hearing in connection with their February arrest in Lordsburg on drug charges, the Albuquerque Journal reported Friday in a copyright story. The couple are charged with conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than 50 kilograms of marijuana found in the car in which they were riding. The driver, another church member, has turned state's witness. U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera said she would take written arguments and review transcripts and documents before deciding whether to dismiss the charges based on the Quaintances' right to freely exercise their religion. Danuel Quaintance's attorney, Marc Robert, portrays him as 'a spiritual man who has followed his religious beliefs and practices at great personal risk.' Assistant U.S. Attorneys Luis Martinez and Amanda Gould argue that the defendants are drawing from 'a hodgepodge of unsupported speculations for most of their assertions ... in an effort to cloak themselves in a religious mantel.' The Quaintances contend they have a right to marijuana as the central focus of the Church of Cognizance, founded by Danuel Quaintance in 1991 and registered as a religious organization in Arizona in 1994... Danuel Quaintance testified the Church of Cognizance is based on his research and interpretation of religious texts and is a form of neo-Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion that holds as sacred a drink made from a mountain plant called haoma. In the teachings of Zoroaster, the plant, the drink and the god are the same. The Quaintances believe cannabis, hemp or marijuana is haoma."