Pastor prosecuted for preaching gospel of pot

LOS ANGELES While Los Angeles city leaders struggle to figure out how to deal with the hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries that have sprung up all over town, law enforcement is targeting alleged law-breakers. A pastor who built his ministry around marijuana is now out of business. One look at the storefront on one West Los Angeles street and you know you're looking at a marijuana dispensary. Beverly Hills Green Cross is different.

Craig Rubin conducts bible study there. The ordained minister is pastor of Temple 420, a marijuana ministry.

"What we've always tried to do, my wife and I, is present god to people who use medical marijuana," said Rubin. "[The Bible] says 'we are healed by his stripes' in Isaiah 53, and a as a Jewish person, I believe the Old Testament, and I think Christians should believe the Old Testament is valid. I teach a course in college called 'The Jewish History of the New Testament.'

"Marijuana is specifically mentioned in the Book of Exodus in a holy anointing oil. It's called 'cannabossum,'" said Rubin.

You could say he practices what he preaches. When asked if he smoked cannabis, Rubin said, "Yes, I do smoke." The last time he lit up? "Ten minutes ago."

L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley says he's cracking down on hundreds of marijuana dispensaries he says are operating illegally in Los Angeles. Cooley says religion is just another way dope dealers try to get around the law to make a profit.

"I want to reach out to people who do smoke pot and let them know that god still loves them, and they're welcome to come to church, and that it isn't a sin to smoke pot," said Rubin.

"I think they're frauds and they're corrupt," said Cooley. "And they should be pursued by people in positions of law enforcement authority."

That's what happened at Rubin's dispensary. After an undercover investigation, L.A. police raided the place on October 22 at 4:20 in the afternoon.

Rubin is in big trouble. He was already on probation after being convicted previously of marijuana possession for sale. Now he's facing those same charges again, plus a possible probation violation that could send him to prison for years.

"Hey, I'm facing jail time," said Rubin. "And really I feel I haven't done anything wrong but try and preach the word."

Rubin said he's being singled out because he's an outspoken advocate for medical marijuana who once ran for mayor of Los Angeles. He says his dispensary was licensed and that he'd consulted with the city attorney's office to make sure they were OK with it.

Rubin was arraigned on Monday. He's acting as his own attorney.

He says god and the law are both on his side, that the law under which he's being prosecuted makes an exception for ordained ministers.

One of his supporters could be seen Monday smoking a marijuana cigarette right outside the courthouse.

"The state makes an exception for duly ordained ministers to run psychological clinics, and we do provide psychological counseling and services, biblical services," said Rubin.

Rubin is due back in court in January, representing himself and his beliefs, with his freedom on the line.

Rubin says he has the documentation to prove his innocence and he's ready to go to trial. He's undeterred by the fact that the last time he acted as his own attorney, he was convicted.

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