Some Native Americans, and some others, use cannabis as a religious sacrament. Back in 2009, federal law enforcement officers in Hawaii seized from FedEx one pound of marijuana — worth about $7,000 — that was addressed to a member of the Oklevueha Native American Church. Police later destroyed it. It is a bad idea to ship cannabis by FedEx.
Michael Rex “Raging Bear” Mooney, the intended recipient, sued the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration, seeking to bar the government from enforcing a federal anti-drug law against the church. “Raging Bear” is the founder of the 250-member church, and he argued that his flock’s marijuana use is protected by the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A lower court threw out the lawsuit, saying Mooney hadn’t shown the church was ever in real danger of prosecution by authorities for religious marijuana use.
No one was charged in connection with the marijuana seizure. A Justice Department lawyer said in court hearings that no investigation was pending. Again, and we still see this tactic, the process is not to prosecute in a criminal court of law. That carries the danger of a jury saying “not guilty.” Instead the feds just steal. Ask Richard Lee. Anyway, let’s get to the good news. The Ninth Circuit, ruling Monday, said prosecution wasn’t a prerequisite for the lawsuit. That means Raging Bear can sue even though he was not prosecuted criminally.
“The seizure of Plaintiffs’ marijuana that has already occurred creates a justiciable case and controversy about plaintiffs’ constitutional and statutory entitlement to use marijuana for religious purposes,” wrote Judge Mary Murguia for the three-judge panel.
The panel sent the lawsuit down to the lower court for further proceedings, without offering an opinion on the merits of the case. Bear is back to square one. Bravo! Anybody up for a church service?
Another pot story from the Wall Street Journal.
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