Monday, August 17, 2009

Maine Judge Rules Against Sacramental Marijuana Use

Judge rules against man claiming sacramental marijuana use

By M. Dirk Langeveld, Staff Writer
Published: Aug 14, 2009 1:05 am

PORTLAND — A federal judge has ruled in favor of the state of Maine
and two law enforcement agencies in the case of a man claiming to use
marijuana for religious purposes.

U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal agreed with a recommendation
by U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk to find in favor of the
state, Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and Mexico Police Department.
Mexico resident Norman Hutchinson had charged the government and police
with violation of his constitutional rights in the seizure of 55
marijuana plants in 2004.

Hutchinson appealed the decision with a one-sentence document demanding
a jury trial.

In August 2004, police searched Hutchinson's home on Granite Street
after finding an ATV registered to him near a marijuana growing
operation in Dixfield. The search uncovered marijuana plants as well as
cultivating equipment. Hutchinson later pleaded guilty to marijuana
cultivation and admitted the criminal forfeiture of the ATV.

In the civil complaint he filed earlier this year, Hutchinson said he is
a member of the Hawaii-based Religion of Jesus Church. Founded in 1969,
the Religion of Jesus Church mandates the smoking of marijuana based on
12 tenets, including the increased ability to feel God and amplification
of worship of God.

Hutchinson charged the state and police with violation of his rights
under the state and federal constitutions, violation of the United
States Code and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, false
imprisonment, trespass, conversion, invasion of privacy, and negligent
and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Hutchinson, who is representing himself, later sought a judgment in his
favor and asked for $75 million from the state and MDEA. He also asked
for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages from the Mexico Police

Attorney General Janet Mills, arguing on behalf of the state and MDEA,
previously said that a federal court had rejected an argument similar to
Hutchinson's 25 years ago. In that case, 15 members of the Ethiopian
Zion Coptic Church unsuccessfully tried to appeal their drug trafficking
convictions after a raid at a remote Stockton Springs facility seized 20
tons of marijuana that was being offloaded from a ship. The Ethiopian
Zion Coptic Church also mandates the use of marijuana for religious

In her recommendation, Kravchuk said Hutchinson did not demonstrate that
his case was different from prior court decisions upholding marijuana
convictions of people claiming religious use of marijuana. She also said
the Freedom of Religion Restoration Act does not apply to the states,
and that Hutchinson did not file a statement of facts with his motion
for judgment as required.

Singal said he agreed with Kravchuk's finding and affirmed her
recommendation. He also denied Hutchinson's motion for judgment and
approved motions for judgment filed by the state in favor of the MDEA
and Mexico Police Department.


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