Appeals court revives religious marijuana use case
Hawaii: The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that members of a Hawaiian church who use marijuana for religious reasons may sue to block the federal government from seizing its supply. In 2009, federal law enforcement officers seized and destroyed one pound of marijuana that was addressed to a member of the Oklevueha Native American Church. The intended recipient and founder of the church, Michael Rex “Raging Bear” Mooney, sued the heads of the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration in an attempt to bar the government from enforcing a federal anti-drug law against the church. But because no one was criminally charged in connection with the marijuana seizure, district judge Susan Oki Mollway threw out the case.
But in the appeals court's decision, a three-judge panel ruled that prosecution wasn’t a prerequisite for the church's lawsuit. Judge Mary Murguia wrote that "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." The case has been sent down to lower court for further proceedings.
|This article was written by Kelly O'Keefe, the Director of Development for the Lucy Burns Institute. She can be reached at Kelly.O'Keefe@lucyburns.org.|