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Marijuana Church Claims Offend Believers

Adam Gaub, Assistant Editor, Eastern Arizona Courier , 25th July 2006

Members of the Zoroastrian faith are prepared to defend their religion against claims made by those in Pima's Church of Cognizance. Dan and Mary Quaintance of Pima claim they use marijuana - often mixed with milk - in their practice of the Zoroastrian faith.

The Quaintances are awaiting trial after being arrested in New Mexico in February for having 172 pounds of marijuana in their possession.

While milk, and goat's milk specifically, can sometimes be used in ceremonies in the Zoroastrian religion, Rustom Kevala, the president of the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America, said marijuana has never been used as part of their religion.

"We don't want Zoroastrians to be associated with this kind of church," Kevala said. "I guess they (the Quaintances) were trying to find justification for the use."

Kevala was so deeply offended by the Quaintances' claims that he contacted the U.S. District Attorney's Office in New Mexico to see if he can help in the case.

"I can offer one of our priests to testify, if needed," Kevala said.

One of the crucial aspects of the Zoroastrian religion is that members are fire-worshippers and are forbidden to even light a cigarette, much less use drugs, Zoroastrian Association of Arizona secretary Parizad Patel-Pascuicco said.

"It's just such a hoax to me to label our Zoroastrian religion into their little marijuana (church)," Patel-Pascuicco, a Chandler resident, said.

Another strike against the Quaintances' claim is that Zoroastrians must be born into the religion, which can be traced back to before the time of Christ in ancient Persia. The religion, which is still today based mainly out of Iran and India, is very restricted to outside converts.

"You have to be born into the religion and initiated by a Zoroastrian priest when they are 8 or 9 in a navjote," Patel-Pascuicco said. A navjote is akin to a baptism. "My husband is of Italian descent and could not be Zoroastrian even if he wanted to."

There are about 20,000 Zoroastrians living in North America today, Kevala said, and while he said there are some who believe the biblical Tree of Life may be herbs growing in the Himalayas, there has never been the belief that the herbs are marijuana.

Dan Quaintance, who was raised in the Methodist Church, told a Courier reporter earlier this month he looked into the history of the marijuana plant, which he refers to as haoma.

"Archaeology has shown a correlation between cannabis and the Tree of Life in the Bible," Quaintance said.

Kevala said the North American Mobeds Council, a group of Zoroastrian priests who serve as an advisory body for the religion, disclaim the theory the haoma plant belongs to the genus Canna.

"Firstly, we do not know for a fact what species the haoma plant belonged to," the council states. "There is absolutely no factual evidence that haoma plant belonged to genus Canna (Cannabis). It is pure speculation."

Patel-Pascuicco was appal-led that the Quaintances� church could ever be associated with her religion.

"We've never heard of them," she said. "They are being disingenuous and giving our religion a bad name."

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