One More Chance for Religious Marijuana


Last week the Arizona Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by a man who argues that his conviction on marijuana charges violated a state law protecting religious freedom. Daniel Hardesty, a member of the cannabis-centered Church of Cognizance, was arrested in 2005. His religious freedom argument was rejected at trial and by the Arizona Court of Appeal, but now he will get one more chance. Arizona's Free Exercise of Religion Act allows the state to impose a substantial burden on the exercise of religion only if it is "the least restrictive means" of furthering a "compelling government interest." The appeals court concluded that the burden imposed on Hardesty by marijuana prohibition met that test, declining to question the legislature's judgment that "the use and possession of marijuana always pose a risk to public health and welfare."

I noted Hardesty's case last August. The founders of his church, Dan and Mary Quaintance, were featured in my June 2007 Reason story about psychoactive sacraments. Unlike Hardesty, whose sincerity was conceded by the state, the Quaintances were deemed unserious by a federal judge, who concluded that their beliefs and practices did not qualify as a real religion. They pleaded guilty to possession and conspiracy charges last year, shortly before they were scheduled to go on trial. 

[via the Drug War Chronicle]