Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church
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The Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church is an offshoot of the Rastafari movement that flourished in the 1970s in Jamaica and was incorporated in Florida in 1975. Members of the movement say it is based on the teachings of Marcus Garvey and that they use cannabis as the Rastafari sacrament.
In 1979 the group was accused, tried, and convicted of smuggling massive amounts of potent cannabis from Jamaica to Miami in actions that kept the Jamaican economy afloat that decade. The then-Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga told a U.S. interview "It's just a little sinsemilla that it keep the country going right now". The Coptics published a free newspaper promoting Garveyism and the decriminalization of marijuana titled "Coptic Times". They also appeared on 60 Minutes on October 28, 1979. The group's leader was Thomas Reilly, also known as Brother Louv. During the same year, The Supreme Court of Florida found: "(1) the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church represents a religion within the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and (2) the “use of cannabis is an essential portion of the religious practice." "Further, the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church is not a new church or religion but the record reflects it is centuries old and has regularly used cannabis as its sacrament”.
On August 8, 1994 Jim Tranmer, a former member of the group, wrote a letter to Carl Olsen while meditating on his 35-year prison sentence and his departure from the EZCC's "malicious hierarchy". Olsen ran for governor in Iowa, as a Libertarian, in 1994 and for the U.S. House of Representatives, again as a Libertarian, in 1996. He is currently a priest in the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, and resides in Iowa.
The EZCC is not associated with either the Coptic Orthodox Church or the Coptic Catholic Church, both based in Egypt. The Coptic Orthodox Church has an Ethiopian sister church, which is also unrelated.
The Zion Coptic Church appeared in the 2011 Billy Corben documentary Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja, whose first section concerns the group and features interviews with former members. In Brazil there are the First Niubingui Church Etiope Coptic of Zion of Brasil.
- History of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, by Walter Wells.
- The Law and Brother Louv, The Miami Herald, August 2, 1981
- Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, CBS News - 60 Minutes, Volume XII, Number 7, Oct. 28, 1979.
- Coptic Gets 35 Years, Jim Tranmer, Aug. 8, 1994.
- https://m.imdb.com/title/tt2945588/ I (Almost) got away with it; Tony Darwin
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