Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Alaska Trial Court Hears Evidence On Religious Basis of Marijuana Use

In October, the Alaska Court of Appeals in Lineker v. State of Alaska, a case involving a free exercise challenge under the Alaska constitution to a possession of marijuana charge, remanded the case to the trial court for a hearing on whether the defendants' conduct was based on a sincere religious belief. (See prior posting.) A few days ago the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported on the hearing that was held last week. Defendant Michael Lineker testified that Jewish and Hindu scriptures led to his belief that a liquid extract of marijuana buds is an essential ingredient of an anointing oil used since ancient times. He said that growing marijuana plants, and rituals at various stages of its growth, is part of the religious practice of his religion, United Global Mankind - Divine Maintenance and Direction. Under cross-examination, Lineker conceded that since his wife-- who is also charged with marijuana possession-- does not like to participate in the sacrament, it is presently a religion of one person. The judge scheduled a hearing beginning April 21 on whether the state has a sufficiently compelling interest that the marijuana laws should be enforced, without an exemption, even if defendants' conduct was based on a sincere religious belief.

UPDATE: On March 7, the Alaska Attorney General's office announced that in a March 1 order, Judge Larry Weeks held that "there is no religion in the Lineker’s professed belief system and that those beliefs are not sincere religious beliefs and a second hearing is not necessary." [Thanks to All American Patriots for the lead.]