A 'smoke-off' organized by the Church of the Holy Smoke Sunday drew about 150 people over the course of the day

A 'smoke-off' organized by the Church of the Holy Smoke Sunday drew about 150 people over the course of the day

Pro-pot church claims persecution in White Rock

City of White Rock dealing with Church of the Holy Smoke ‘within the law,’ mayor says.

Proponents behind White Rock’s marijuana-focused religious organization are calling for a worldwide boycott of the city, following an order issued Friday to dismantle the gathering place or face fines.

Robin Douglas – who calls himself Pastor Robin, a title he says will soon be official – told Peace Arch News Monday the boycott led by the Church of the Holy Smoke is in protest of “their violation of human rights and freedom of religion.”

“They gave us a notice that we have to have our tent down by Friday  (June 26) or else they’re going to start to issue us a $150 fine,” Douglas said. “If they’re going to give us a ticket… the City of White Rock has to, by law, ticket everybody that has a tent on the property, otherwise it becomes selective prosecution.

“White Rock should not have a right to shut a religion down that is trying to do good for the community.”

Mayor Wayne Baldwin, however, said he does not believe the organization is appropriate for White Rock, and he is “not going to be overwhelmed” by the boycott threat.

“We’re dealing with it within the law,” Baldwin said.

Robin DouglasDouglas opened the facility in a tent structure on property in the 14700-block of Marine Drive about 2½ months ago. His goal, he told PAN, was to create a place where residents and visitors alike can safely enjoy cannabis; to keep pot “off the beach and off the street.”

Signage outside notes entry is restricted to those 18 years and older, and while Douglas confirmed he is under court order not to have anyone younger than 18 in his residence – the condition was part of a sentence imposed last November on a trafficking charge – he said the restriction at his facility would have been in place anyway.

“Regardless if that was there or not, it would still be 18-plus,” he said.

The city’s interest in the facility was sparked by a complaint earlier this month, and officials told PAN at that time that efforts were underway to have it taken down.

The city’s director of development services Karen Cooper said last week that if the property owner doesn’t comply with fire and safety requirements, adjustments will have to be made “or he is to leave.”

Fire Chief Phil Lemire confirmed Monday that the structure does not meet building or fire code regulations for “assembly occupancy use.”

White Rock RCMP Cpl. Michelle Thiessen said investigation into the property is ongoing, and if any criminal activity occurs, “we will take action.”

She described the situation as “not only a police issue, but kind of an overall White Rock community issue.”

Thiessen said there have been no arrests in connection with Douglas’s operation so far, including over the past weekend, when he had predicted “a thousand stoners” would turn out to West Beach for the “largest smoke-off that White Rock will ever see.”

Attendance was decidedly fewer, Douglas confirmed Monday – estimating 150 people participated over the course of the day – but the event served its purpose nonetheless, he said.

“We got our name out there. We had lots of people come by and say ‘yes, this is a good thing… we support you’,” he said.

He maintains that activities within the facility are legal under the right to practise religion.

“We’re not selling cannabis, we’re smoking it,” he said. “We have declared this our holy church and therefore we have the right to use our holy sacrament in our church.”

In addition to fighting his eviction notice – a teleconference hearing has been set for Aug. 12 through the tenancy branch – Douglas said he will defy the City of White Rock order. If his operation is forcibly dismantled, he plans to file a human-rights complaint under the religious act, “and the City of White Rock will have to answer for crimes against the church.”

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