January 2017 Church & State - January 2016

Hawaii Church Loses Marijuana Claim

  AU admin

The U. S. Supreme Court won’t hear a case from a Hawaiian Native American church that is arguing its members should be exempt from federal anti-drug laws.

The Oklevueha Native American Church, which uses marijuana during its services, filed the lawsuit in 2009, arguing that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law passed in 1993 to protect minority religious expression, should allow its members to possess and distribute marijuana.

A lower court ruled on Nov. 28 that the church did not present sufficient evidence that federal laws banning or restricting the possession and distribution of marijuana violated members’ religious practices, since church leaders talked about marijuana’s benefits more than they did about its correlation to its religious beliefs.

The church’s leader reportedly claimed that church members use marijuana during sweat lodge ceremonies to help them connect with “their creator,” but the lower court did not find that to be a strong enough correlation.

A federal appeals court also upheld that ruling.

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