United States v. Rush, 738 F.2d 497, 511-513 (1st Cir. 1984) III. FREE EXERCISE CLAUSE AND EQUAL PROTECTION Appellants claim that they were denied the opportunity to assert a valid, legally sufficient defense based on the free exercise clause of the first amendment. [Footnote 29. "Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise [of religion) ...." U.S. Const. amend. I.] For purposes of this case the government stipulated to the following facts, which we assume, without deciding, are true: 1) that the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church is a religion embracing beliefs which are protected by the First Amendment; 2) that the use of marijuana is an integral part of the religious practice of the Church; and 3) that [all of the defendants] are members of the Church and sincerely embrace the beliefs of the Church. On November 23, 1982, the district court ruled as a matter of law that the first amendment did not protect the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute by the defendants, and further ordered that the defendants be precluded from introducing at trial any evidence concerning the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church and the use of marijuana by its members, insofar as such evidence related to their alleged first amendment defense. [Footnote 30. The ruling was carefully tailored to exclude evidence only in relation to the first amendment defense; at trial, two defense witnesses were permitted to testify as to the quantity and methods of marijuana consumption by Church members in support of the Swiderski defense discussed in part IV.] It is well established that the absolute constitutional protection afforded freedom of religious belief does not extend without qualification to religious conduct. Braunfield v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599, 603 (1961); Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940). When a law is challenged as interfering with religious conduct, the constitutional inquiry involves three questions: (a) whether the challenged law interferes with free exercise of a religion; (b) whether the challenged law is essential to accomplish an overriding governmental objective; and (c) whether accommodating the religious practice would unduly interfere with fulfillment of the governmental interest. See United States v. Lee, 455 U.S. 252, 256-59 (1982). In light of the government's stipulations, the first limb of the Lee standard is clearly met; there is no question that marijuana use is an integral part of the religious doctrine and practice of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, and that appellants are sincere practicing members of that Church. The conflict with the criminal sanctions against possession of marijuana with intent to distribute is self-evident. The question whether the government has an overriding interest in controlling the use and distribution of marijuana by private citizens is a topic of continuing political controversy. Much evidence has been adduced from which it might rationally be inferred that marijuana constitutes a health hazard and a threat to social welfare; on the other hand, proponents of free marijuana use have attempted to demonstrate that it is quite harmless. See Randall v. Wyrick, 441 F. Supp. 312, 315-16 (W.D. Mo. 1977); United States v. Kuch, 288 F. Supp. 439, 446 & 448 (D.D.C. 1968). In enacting substantial criminal penalties for possession with intent to distribute, Congress has weighed the evidence and reached a conclusion which it is not this court's task to review de novo. Every federal court that has considered the matter, so far as we are aware, has accepted the congressional determination that marijuana in fact poses a real threat to individual health and social welfare, and has upheld the criminal sanctions for possession and distribution of marijuana even where such sanctions infringe on the free exercise of religion. United States v. Middleton, 690 F.2d 820, 825 (11th Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1051 (1983); United States v. Spears, 443 F.2d 895 (5th Cir. 1971), cert. denied, 404 U.S. 1020 (1972); Leary v. United States, 383 F.2d 851, 859-61 (5th Cir. 1967), rev'd on other grounds 395 U.S. 6 (1969); Randall, 441 F. Supp. at 316 & n. 2; Kuch, 288 F. Supp. at 448. Only last year, the Eleventh Circuit rejected identical claims raised by some of the very appellants before us in this case, see Middleton, 690 F.2d 820, and the United States Supreme Court denied review. We decline to second-guess the unanimous precedent establishing an overriding governmental interest in regulating marijuana. Finally, it has been recognized since Leary that accomodation of religious freedom is practically impossible with respect to the marijuana laws: Congress has demonstrated beyond doubt that it believes marihuana is an evil in American society and a serious threat to its people. It would be difficult to imagine the harm which would result if the criminal sanctions against marihuana were nullified as to those who claim the right to possess and traffic in this drug for religious purposes. For all practical purposes the anti-marihuana laws would be meaningless, and enforcement impossible. Leary,383 F.2d at 861, quoted in Middleton, 690 F.2d at 825; see also Kuch, 288 F. Supp. at 447. Although a narrow administrative exception has been carved out from the Schedule I classification of peyote for the benefit of the Native American Church, see 21 C.F.R. § 1307.31, we think this exemption is properly viewed as a government "effort toward accommodation" for a "readily identifiable, narrow catagory" which has minimal impact on the enforcement of the laws in question. Lee, 455 U.S. at 260 n. 11 & 261. No broad religious exemption from the marijuana laws is constitutionally required. We therefore affirm the district court's ruling rejecting appellants' first amendment defense as a matter of law. We reject as well appellants' claim that members of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church are entitled as a matter of equal protection to a religious exemption from the marijuana laws on the same terms as the peyote exemption granted the Native American Church. Marijuana is not covered by the peyote exemption; this in itself distinguishes this case from Kennedy v. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, 459 F.2d 415 (9th Cir, 1972), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 1115 (1973). Moreover, the peyote exemption is uniquely supported by the legislative history and congressional findings underlying the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, which declares a federal policy of "protecting] and preserv[ing] for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express and exercise the[ir] traditional religions including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites." 42 U.S.C. § 1996. The legislative history of the Act "is clear in finding that religion is an integral part of Indian culture and that the use of such items as peyote are necessary to the survival of Indian religion and culture." Peyote Way Church of God, Inc. v. Smith, 556 F. Supp. 632, 637 (N.D. Tex. 1983). In light of the sui generis legal status of American Indians, see Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1, 16-17 (1831) (Marshall, C.J.), and the express policy of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (which was passed after Kennedy was decided), we think the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church cannot be deemed similarly situated to the Native American Church for equal protection purposes. United States v. Rush, 738 F.2d 497, 511-513 (1st Cir. 1984).