Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Judge Rejects First Amendment Defense To Marijuana Charges By Church Founders

The Arizona Daily Star today reports that a New Mexico federal judge has ruled against the founders of a Southeastern Arizona church that uses marijuana as a sacrament. An earlier jury trial on drug charges (see prior posting) was apparently postponed while the court considered a motion by church founders Dan and Mary Quaintance arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court's O'Centro decision protected them from prosecution. Judge Judith Herrera found that the Quaintance's do not hold sincere religious beliefs regarding marijuana. Instead, according to the judge, the Quaintances created the church to justify their belief that marijuana should be legalized. She wrote: "Defendants cannot avoid prosecution for illegal conduct simply by transforming their lifestyle choices into a 'religion'."

UPDATE: The full opinion in United States v. Quaintance is now available at 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94439 (D NM, Dec. 22, 2006).