Church of Cognizance

A religious organization promoting cannabis as a sacrament and integrating neo-Zoroastrian beliefs.

History and Beliefs

The Church of Cognizance (COC) was founded in 1991 by Danuel and Mary Quaintance in Graham County, Arizona, United States. It combines aspects of neo-Zoroastrianism with a unique interpretation of cannabis, referred to as “Haoma,” as a central sacrament.

Core Beliefs

Members of the Church of Cognizance hold several key beliefs:

  1. Cannabis as Haoma: They believe that cannabis, when properly used, aids the mind, body, and soul. Haoma, an ancient teacher of wisdom and compassion, is equated with cannabis, offering a path to enlightenment and well-being.
  2. Spiritual and Health Benefits: The Church posits that Haoma/cannabis is a provider of all necessities for a comfortable, healthy, and productive life. It is also viewed as a protector of health and longevity, believed to connect with receptors in the human body for healing purposes.
  3. Good Thoughts, Words, and Deeds: The Church advocates that the proper religious use of cannabis promotes these Zoroastrian principles, which are deemed non-harmful to society.


The Church of Cognizance is structured around “Family Oriented Monastic Orders” located in members’ homes, known as Individual Orthodox Member Monasteries (IOMMs). These IOMMs are dedicated to promoting family health, safety, welfare, culture, and tradition, in line with the Church’s beliefs.


To become a registered member, candidates must read and agree with a pamphlet titled “The Church Of Cognizance Introduced,” which outlines the Church’s beliefs, organizational structure, and a membership pledge. This process emphasizes the Church’s focus on leading an honorable, family-oriented life.

Controversies and Legal Challenges

The Church has faced legal challenges, particularly regarding its cannabis use as a religious sacrament. These challenges stem from conflicts with federal and state drug laws. The founders themselves faced legal issues, underscoring the controversial nature of the Church’s practices in the eyes of law enforcement and the judiciary.

Relation to Neo-Zoroastrianism

The Church of Cognizance identifies with neo-Zoroastrian beliefs, particularly in its veneration of Haoma. However, this association has been contested, with some Zoroastrian priests testifying against the use of marijuana as a sacrament in what they consider traditional Zoroastrian practice.