The Raving Theist

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Smokin’ It

March 2, 2006 | 9 Comments

The Supreme Court recently found that drinking a hallucinogenic tea is a protected religious practice under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. How about growing hemp? A California federal court confronted that question just a few days after the SCOTUS ruling:

Throughout the complaint, plaintiff’s briefing, and his argument at hearing, plaintiff’s description of his growing hemp/cannabis indicates that it is a way of life for him rather than a religion. Although plaintiff does link “tending his garden” with feeling close to God, he does not specifically link or require growing hemp to commune with God:

Tending our family garden as a boy just reinforced what I was being taught in Catholic School about God, Nature, and our dependency on such. But, for me, tending the garden became much more, it somehow brought me closer to God. It was as if to tend our garden was my most direct connection with God, outside of my own heart. It gave me a feeling of communing with God in a way that simply was not there in my church. Even tending Mass as an Alter Boy did not satisfy my need to link with God, but my garden did.

Plaintiff admits that his efforts to introduce hemp and its byproducts were for reasons other than worship of his religion:

In the mid 1990’s I was directly involved in helping to organize efforts to introduce and implement and [sic] economic development plan, based on producing hemp, to the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe at Pine Ridge in South Dakota…. If it had succeeded it would have gone far to bring food, jobs, housing and self-sustainability to a place that was then and is still one of the most impoverished areas within U.S. continental borders.

Plaintiff also refers to his efforts to aid American farmers who were in desperate need of economic aid by teaching them to grow hemp, and concedes it was an “economic effort.” Plaintiff additionally invokes hemp in the name of better clothing and household use, better quality of life, and pursuit of survival for man in general and him and his family in particular.

In his opposition, plaintiff reaffirms that his use of the cannabis/hemp plant represents a way of life rather than a religion. He states that no other plant can meet all the basic necessities of life, that it is central to our survival, and that it is necessary in order for him to live in the most healthy and harmonious possible way.

All of these statements and affirmations indicate that plaintiff’s beliefs are secular, economic, social, and philosophical, but that they are not religious. As the court in Meyers found, an individual’s belief in a “Church of Marijuana” does not make it a religion. Plaintiff has not shown that his beliefs are religious in nature.

What drugs was the judge on? The man wants to get closer to God by using hemp to help people and live harmoniously. If that’s not religion, I don’t know what is. The court tried to distinguish the SCOTUS ruling by stating that in that case “there was no doubt that the sect at issue was a religion, and that preclusion of use of the tea would substantially burden the religion,” but it seems to me that the hemp guy was sincere enough and that his whole life would be burdened if they shut down his garden. I didn’t think this country’s jurisprudence on religion could get any goofier than it already was, but it looks like the RFRA will be providing entertainment for years to come. Why we even have legislation that puts religious nonsense ahead of economic, social and philosophical concerns is, of course, another question.

HT: The Religion Clause — and this site, by Professor Howard M. Friedman, is a great place to go if you’re looking to read about the latest upsetting religious outrage.

Comments

9 Responses to “Smokin’ It”

  1. IA_
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 1:02 am

    Wine is an irreplacable part of Catholic’s weekly ceremony. What happened to them during prohibition, does anyone know?

  2. gravitybear
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 8:58 am

    Wine used for sacramental purposes was exempted.

    http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/maltarwine.html

  3. Viole
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 10:08 am

    Personally, RA, I’d suggest the reason for this ruling making no sense is that the Supreme Court ruling on the matter doesn’t make any either.

  4. JBostick
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 11:12 am

    The US Constitution was written on hemp paper.
    The flag Betsy Ross sewn was with hemp fiber.
    Hemp can be produced into textiles, oils, paper, Ethanol fuel(more efficently than corn), LCM resins that can be shaped into plastic and rubber, rope, ink, construction materials and too many others to list. This plant can be grown over and over again in the same soil year after year, IT DOES NOT GET YOU HIGH!!
    Hemp was required to grow durring WW1 and WW2 http://www.archive.org/details/Hemp_for_victory_1942
    Presidents Washington and Jefferson both grew hemp. Americans were legally bound to grow hemp during the Colonial Era and Early Republic.
    Hemp is no longer recognized as distinct from marijuana since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970.
    Industrual hemp is one of the most important materials known to man. Henry ford knew it, so did the US government. Petrol oils were the reason why this vital crop was not introduced into mainstream production. Propaganda films were produced to frighten the public into believing that hemp and marijuana are the same, and they are not. Hemp does not contain chemicals that produce euphoria in people, not anymore than a bananna would.

  5. kate
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 11:43 am

    JBostick said: “Hemp does not contain chemicals that produce euphoria in people, not anymore than a bananna would.”

    Bananas don’t need chemicals to accomplish that.

  6. JBostick
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 11:52 am

    I stand corrected.

  7. benjamin
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 12:30 pm

    The people in power in this country and the people that put them there are deathly afraid of any recreational use of a little marijuana, but will gladly incorporate religious discrimination into our laws so any crazy bunch of rationally-challenged discontents can fill the emotional voids in their lives with an imaginary communion with “God”.

  8. MobileSuitPilotX
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 1:07 pm

    JBostick–“Petrol oils were the reason why this vital crop was not introduced into mainstream production.”

    I’m sure the centuries-old cotton industry had something to do with it, too…

  9. Spearchunker
    March 3rd, 2006 @ 1:27 pm

    Religions frown upon anything that is taken for the sole purposes of pleasure. Why is it “wrong” for me to do the things that I find pleasurable?

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