PRIESTS OF POT LOSE THEIR CHURCH
"We Lost Our Church And University All Over $70 Worth Of Pot"
Michael Baldasaro and Walter Tucker are closing up the Church of the Universe. The organ has to go. Baldasaro's bed has to go. The books in the library have to go.
This weekend, Baldasaro, 59, and Tucker, 75, will close the book on their "church" on Barton Street East that was seized by the Crown last year and sold as a forfeited asset.
"We lost our church and university all over $70 worth of pot," Baldasaro said yesterday.
"The building is already sold, but the judge said ... we could go in April 25 to 29 and clean out all our stuff. But we have nowhere to put everything."
Baldasaro and Tucker are "archbishops" in the Church of The Universe, where they worship the Tree of Life, straight from the Garden of Eden.
And the tree is good, especially because their "sacrament" gets them high.
To some, they are unrepentant lawbreakers. Others call them the happy hemp brothers of Hamilton.
The convicted pot priests are supposed to be headed behind bars, but are out on bail awaiting the outcome of various appeals.
One of them fell through yesterday when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal of any restrictions on their freedoms while they are on bail, including the smoking of their "sacrament."
The top court, as usual, didn't explain its reasons for refusing to hear the case.
The brothers aren't sure what they will do with the church belongings.
"I dunno, we're going to have sell some stuff, give some stuff away," Baldasaro said.
"I don't have room at my place. Hey, if anyone has some storage space, tell them to give me a shout!"
The Church of the Universe has its roots in a 1969 hippie hangout at a former waterfilled quarry in Puslinch, north of Hamilton. Clearwater Abbey, as they called it, was their nudist home until the 1980s when the government evicted them.
Their commitment to enjoying their sacrament has led to numerous run-ins with the law.
In late 2007, Tucker and Baldasaro were convicted of trafficking in marijuana for selling $70 worth of pot to a plainclothes police officer at their Barton Street East property. Tucker was sentenced to one year in jail.
Baldasaro, who has 12 previous trafficking-related convictions, got two years in the pen.
Yesterday, Baldasaro said the Church of the Universe lives on.
"This is not the end of the church, 'cause, like when they nailed the Lord to the cross, this is only the beginning."
And, he said, like the early Christians, the church will now worship in secret.
"We will meet in homes and fields. We'll see what happens."
The Hamilton duo is well known on the court circuit and at city hall.
Ottawa knows them, too.
In 1999, the federal government launched a study into the medicinal properties of marijuana. So Tucker and Baldasaro sent then-health minister Allan Rock a couple of grams of pot. The shipment disappeared, although it arrived at the ministry where someone signed for it. The brothers sent a second sample.
Rock was not amused and returned the favour by dispatching an undercover agent who subsequently charged them with trafficking. The pot priests responded by saying Rock should have been encouraging them to grow "the good stuff."
Baldasaro has run for Hamilton mayor six times.
In his vision, Hamilton's downtown would be covered in a series of climate-controlled domes, and the city would have a red-light district so prostitutes would be confined to one area and taxed.
He also promised to drop mayor's office security and fill it with the music of Elvis.
And, of course, marijuana would be legalized.
Copyright: 2009 The Hamilton Spectator