The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

‘Liberty Dollar’ Creator Seeks Greener Grass

By Larry Keller on January 6, 2009 - 5:52 pm, Posted in Tax Protesters

For many years he was the “monetary architect” of the “Liberty dollar,” much beloved by antigovernment “Patriots.” Nowadays, Bernard von NotHaus may be singing the lyrics of the 1970 Brewer & Shipley tune: “One toke over the line sweet Jesus …”

After running afoul of federal authorities over his alternative currency scheme, von NotHaus has embarked on a more ethereal venture, the Free Marijuana Church of Honolulu, where he is the “high priest.” Church members step into the “High Room” for one toke of marijuana, then retire to a meditation room “in serene bliss,” according to a church press release.

Von NotHaus, 64, says he once was friends with psychedelic drug proponent Timothy Leary, but he’s best known among radical right “Patriots” for creating “American Liberty currency” in money certificate denominations of $1, $5 and $10 starting in 1998. The certificates were backed by stocks of silver and gold stored in Idaho, von NotHaus said. The currency is popular with extreme-right tax protesters and members of the radical “sovereign citizen” movement, who maintain that the federal government has no right to tax or otherwise regulate them, as well as those who believe that the Federal Reserve, America’s central bank, is run by a private body for personal profit.

Fourteen months ago, federal agents seized two tons of copper coins featuring Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and 500 pounds of silver from a Liberty Dollars warehouse, and raided the company’s Evansville, Ind., headquarters after the U.S. Mint issued a public warning to consumers and businesses that using Liberty Dollars in lieu of U.S. currency was a crime. While von NotHaus feared he might be arrested on allegations of violating federal laws prohibiting the private manufacturing of currency, he was not criminally charged. He has always insisted that Liberty Dollars are a voluntary barter currency, not “legal tender,” “current money” or “coin.”

Von NotHaus said he has been smoking pot for 40 years. But it was only in the past 12 years that he began smoking one toke of marijuana every Sunday morning and learned “to listen to the God within my own mind.” The idea of a church came to him “as a means for other people to experience their higher consciousness,” he wrote in a lengthy essay on the church’s website. The website lists no address for his church, however, and he wrote that there is no need to visit there to experience God, just take “one toke of high-grade marijuana” and lie down in a dimly lit room.

Despite his professed cannabis-fueled bliss, it doesn’t appear that von NotHaus’ Liberty Dollar ties have completely gone up in smoke. The Liberty Dollar website,, features his photograph, front and center, along with a long message from him shilling the virtues of Liberty Dollars. “Even though I get an enormous amount of mail, please write to me,” von Not Haus writes. “I love hearing every Success Story when you use the Liberty Dollar.”

Even so, von NotHaus said in October that he was turning over the reins of the Liberty Dollar to others and retiring. He had, he said in a written statement to supporters, “discovered an amazing new God within my own mind.”

Now von NotHaus says he hopes to publish a book on famous and not-so-famous people’s positive drug use stories. The working title: “One Toke to God – Two Tokes to Party.”

  • John

    This guy is a nut job and a poster child for “just say no”, as his Maui Wowie church illustrates, but the idea subtly inferred in this article that trade in silver and gold is somehow illegal is totally false and misleading. It is illegal to privately make currency/coins and call them lawful US currency but there is nothing, NOTHING illegal about using precious metals as barter or trade items, nor is there anything illegal about trading a certificate for said metals as a barter instrument, which was proven by von Nothaus’ acquittal.

  • Ga Jar Head

    Anyone see the city in New York that started their own currency? Great Read. Way to GO.

  • Whitey

    Obama will regulate weed?

  • RIch

    Your cross-links explain why this article is here better than the article does. I would like to point out: Time Banks and Local Currencies are 1) Legal when done right 2) Used successfully around the world 3) Expanding use in hard times .

    Maybe it’s a “news of the weird” moment for you. But please balance your coverage when speaking generally about alternative currencies. Some have been around for decades in the US and longer elsewhere.

  • Keith

    Hi there. I came across your site while googling Ron Paul and the Liberty Dollar etc. Can’t understand why you have run this piece since your other articles seem to be against ‘hate mongers’? What is so wrong (as apart from disapproving or being ‘kooky’) about his actions that he is put alongside your primary targets?

  • Dave von Ebers

    For clarification, my comment referred to Mr. von NotHaus’s “church,” not the issue of whose gold or silver had been seized.

    And his name is really von NotHaus?! Really? Well, at least he got the small “v” right.

  • Bil Munsil K1ATV HAM TV

    You would be angry, too, if some of the silver was yours.

    It is quite common for companies like Kitco and A-mark to store gold and silver that belongs to their customers.

    Last time I checked it wasn’t against the law to own gold and silver.

  • Dave von Ebers

    Sometimes, the jokes just write themselves …

  • Bil Munsil K1ATV HAM TV

    You said “500 pounds of silver from a Liberty Dollars warehouse…”

    That precious metal did not belong to Liberty Dollar but was being stored for its rightful owners who are sueing to get their property back.