A case to be argued in Hawaii federal court mixes religion and marijuana, according to The New York Times. The founder of the Hawai’i Cannabis THC Ministry was among several people to be indicted on charges that include conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana.
Roger Christie says his ministry is protected by the First Amendment. His lawyer will argue this week that Christie should be allowed to present a religious freedom defense when the case comes to trial. The lawyer will point to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires the government to show a “compelling interest” when it “substantially burdens” a religious practice, the article notes. The Supreme Court’s 2006 decision to allow a New Mexico church to use a hallucinogen called ayahuasca for sacramental purposes was based on the act.
Christie must convince a federal judge he is not just using his religion to get high legally. Courts tend to avoid defining what constitutes a religion, notes Douglas Laycock, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Virginia.
Until now, exceptions have been made only for relatively obscure drugs, with little or no recreational market. Ayahuasca and peyote, which has also been granted an exemption, make users sick before they make them high, says Laycock. “Marijuana has a huge recreational market. Diversion from religious to recreational uses, and false claims of religious use, would be major problems,” he told the newspaper.