The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Armstrong v. Jewell, decided last month by a federal district court, is yet another religious-right-to-use-marijuana case (brought here under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act). As in nearly all such cases, the claimants lost; among other things, courts hold that there is a compelling government interest in preventing abuse of marijuana, and denying religious exemptions is necessary to serve that interest. And in this case, the court also concluded that the refusal to let plaintiffs Anne Armstrong and Alan Gordon use marijuana in the national park didn't substantially burden plaintiffs' religious practice, because plaintiffs didn't sufficiently show that their religious practice required use of marijuana in that place.
But what most struck me about this particular case was not the legal analysis, but the rationale plaintiffs offered for why they did need to use marijuana here, at the national park in Rhode Island. (That the rationale is odd, of course, shouldn't alter the legal analysis, which comes out against the plaintiffs in any event; I just thought the rationale was interesting.) Plaintiffs claimed:
[T]he relevant time and location, in which the complained of events took place, was preordained by the ancient phrase "I.N.R.I.," in part a result of ancient prophetic visions of the very spot and the very time.
[Footnote:] In support of this particular contention, Gordon states that the inscription "INRI" on Jesus's cross, as seen by Pontius Pilate's wife in a dream, refers to "in R.I."
Well, that's a new bit of Biblical interpretation! INRI is generally thought of to refer to "Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum," meaning "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," but apparently there's more.
Plaintiffs also argued "that the well at the National Memorial was donated by the 'Hahn' family, whose family name is another word for 'hemp;' and that an early 17th Century land sale deed was signed by Roger Williams and the Native mystic Canonicus, whose name means 'Hempstaff' in Latin." All is connected together.