Originally published April 18 2012
Native American Church tribe has to go through legal hoops for its religous freedom
by PF Louis
(NaturalNews) The Native American Church ran into another legal hassle over using mind-altering herbs recently in Honolulu, Hawaii. Unlike other situations historically on the mainland, this confrontation's centerpiece was not peyote, but cannabis.
A FedEx package containing one pound of marijuana intended for the Hawaiian Oklevueha tribe's Native American Church was seized by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) in 2009. The pound of cannabis was given to the Honolulu Police who reportedly destroyed it. No criminal charges were pursued by the local police or DEA.
Michael Rex "Raging Bear" Mooney, the Native American Church's local leader, immediately filed a suit in Honolulu's court federal system demanding return of the cannabis or a payment of $7,000 if it wasn't replaced.
The case was dismissed because, according to U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway, "the court could not order the government to return that which it does not have."
Judge Mollway also went on to rule that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), also known as the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, does not warrant the return of items or payment thereof in the case of legal confiscation by a federal agency doing its duty within the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The DEA did not directly raid the church or its members. The package was reported to the DEA by FedEx. Thus, Judge Mollway ruled the DEA was within its rights and free from liability for that seized property.
Time for more courtroom confrontationsImmediately after that decision, Mooney and the Native American Church's attorney's filed for an injunction to protect their religious rights under the RFRA with cannabis or any other CSA banned mind-altering substance.
The RFRA wording mentions peyote, but not cannabis. However, whatever is considered a traditional sacrament for religious rituals is implied.
Regarding Mooney's filing for an injunction to practice their religious ceremonies, guaranteed by RFRA law without being shackled and hauled off to jail, Judge Mary Murguia supported the claim for their injunction demands. She referred to a 2010 DEA raid on another tribal Hawaiian church also using cannabis for their ceremonies as a valid concern for the plaintiff's future use of cannabis.
Although she supported Judge Molway's technically legal decision to not return or pay for the confiscated cannabis, she pointed out that the Supreme Court has established precedent by agreeing to an earlier CSA challenge based on the RFRA.
Judge Murguia asserted that the RFRA is a well developed law supporting the First Amendment's freedom of religion that should not require seeking an exception to CSA drugs from the DEA.
She concluded that the plaintiff's claims for an injunction are "fit for review." Obviously, the door is open for this tribe to get an injunction set. But it's not over yet. The court report was dated April 9, 2012. The wheels of justice turn slowly, if they turn at all.
An opinion offeredAll this legal hassling and parsing of laws over harmless herbs is nonsense. Big Pharma's highly dangerous drugs are prescribed and cause a higher death rate than all street drugs combined. Yet cannabis is still fair game for DEA abuse on non-criminal users?
Cannabis should be totally legal, just as more dangerous alcohol and tobacco are. All these government actions to grab cannabis and all the court hearings to protect religious freedom are a waste of money, time and energy. There should be NO drug laws imposed on ordinary citizens and tribal nations - period.
Also, it appears that using FedEx for shipping or receiving cannabis isn't a good choice.
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