Jewish Journal


September 5, 2011

Drug dealer doesn’t get court approval for religious use of marijuana


As we learned in the story of Craig X. Rubin and Temple 420, the state of California just doesn’t buy the marijuana-as-religious-sacrament argument. See People v. Rubin. Not surprisingly, it appears the federal government doesn’t either.

At least not under the terms that arose in United States v. Lafley.

In Lafley, the Ninth Circuit held that a “federal district court did not violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act when it imposed as a condition of supervised release the requirement that a convicted methamphetamine dealer not possess or use controlled substances, including marijuana.” That according to Howard Friedman.

The problem for Lafley, who appealed the condition, was that this order would prevent him from worshipping freely as a member of the Montana Cannabis Ministry, an organization that has had its own share of legal troubles. More from the court’s opinion:

Lafley called two witnesses to testify as to his religious beliefs. Randy Leibenguth, a leader of the Montana Cannabis Ministries, is “a Cannabis Sacrament Minister, a dispensary owner, and a D.J., who has lived between the cities of Bozeman and Belgrade, Montana[,] for the past seven years.” Lucas Mulvaugh “is a minister at the Montana Cannabis Ministries and acts as the spiritual advisor.” In his allocution, Lafley testified to his rehabilitation, aided by his association withthe Ministries, and his desire to continue that association—and to continue partaking in its “religious sacrament,” marijuana.

The district court had not reached the question of whether Lafley’s religion was sincere and under the protection of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, finding that regardless the burden on the government would be too high. But the court did have this to say: “with . . . all due respect . . . it doesn’t sound like a religion to me, it sounds
like a way to smoke marijuana,”

Sounds familiar.

You can read the full opinion here. The Ninth Circuit upheld the lower court ruling. In short, Friedman says that the court “rejected as imposing too burdensome a monitoring requirement on probation officers defendant’s claim that he should be allowed religious, but not recreational, use of marijuana.”

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