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Rastafarian Temple Raided For Alleged Medical Marijuana Sales Sues City, States Pot Use Part Of Its Religious Freedom

Updated after the jump with reaction from the temple. Originally posted at 7:05 a.m.

Leaders of a Rastafarian temple/alleged pot shop in Hollywood sued the city this week following its crackdown on medical marijuana retailers: The suit claims that the temple leaders were wrongfully arrested in June mid-July and that the sect is not a dispensary but rather a gathering place where members use marijuana in the name of a, er, higher power: God and religion.

The City Attorney's office sent letters to most of the dispensaries in town warning them they'd have to close down under a stricter city ordinance. Apparently Liberty Bell Temple II was targeted as a pot shop and some of its leaders were subsequently arrested when the city determined it had not shut down as ordered.

R. Edward Forchion, Charquant Leyou, and the Liberty Bell Temple II itself filed suit in Superior Court alleging that the city has infringed on their right, without due process under the law, to practice their religion.

"Liberty Bell II operated as a Rastafarian temple where marijuana was used as a sacrament,'' the suit states.

The suit asserts that Rastafarians consider marijuana a sacrament. Plaintiffs asked for a court order to prevent the city from interfering in this higher calling.

A representative of the temple stated to the Weekly that the establishment was misidentified as a pot shop by authorities -- "a Government mix-up that we tried to correct."

No comment has come so far from the City Attorney's office, but it previously alleged the temple was doing business as a out-of-compliance pot shop called House of Kush. It was raided July June 14, and six people were taken into custody.

A video of the the police raid was posted by the establishment. It depicts a photo of a storefront at 5642 Hollywood Blvd. that has a large "Prop. 215" sign above the door. The ballot initiative is the source of California's medical marijuana law and the basis for L.A.'s many medical marijuana dispensaries.

The video is based on eight security cameras that focus on the establishment; a retail-like counter is shown. Transactions appear to be taking place at the counter. There's a security guard. At one point the narrator, who's identified as NJweedman, director of the temple, says "Everybody's rolling out of the shop, rolling out of the dispensary, rolling out of the temple, whatever you want to call it."

If weed is a religious necessity for the Liberty Bell Temple II massive, so be it. Leaders and followers can always get a prescription. But selling it isn't part of this religious freedom, right?

Irie.

-With reporting from City News Service. Got news? Email us. Follow us on Twitter, too: @dennisjromero.

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