The Native American Church of Hawaii will not receive relief from marijuana laws based on their religious beliefs.
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal made by Native American Church of Hawaii, formerly known as Oklevueha Native American Church, based on their petition to be exempt from marijuana laws formulated by the federal government. The justices observed that the said laws, which ban possession and subsequent cannabis distribution, do not interfere with the rights of church members to follow their religion.
The Native American Church of Hawaii had requested some relief from federal marijuana laws. The Hawaii church filed a lawsuit in 2009 for exemption from the marijuana laws as per Religious Freedom Restoration Act. A church leader claimed church members use marijuana when sweat lodge ceremonies are being held. The substance is reportedly used to help members of the church to regain relationships with their creator. A ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the church produced insufficient evidence concerning its religion. It gave only a robust belief in marijuana benefits. The court of federal appeals upheld this ruling.
According to Michael Rex 'Raging Bear' Mooney, the founder of Native American Church, cannabis is actually prayer smoke and thus a sacrament. It is only via the effects of such medicine can one be closer to the creator. It places the person who smokes the Cannabis in a mind state when that person could actually feel presence with the creator and enjoy an ethereal relationship with the supreme being. Other than Mooney, Scott Bates, a branch leader, sought an injunction which blocked the sheriff of the county from barging into the property of the branch without valid search warrant.
It is to be noted that the church could also utilize the hallucinogenic drug peyote. It generally finds use in the Native American rituals. Federal Law allow tribal Indians and Native American Church members to use peyote in such religious ceremonies. In its ruling, the court said that the church made zero claims on the unavailability of cannabis in such a special religious function. The court thus reasoned that the prohibition of cannabis does not force the church or Mooney to select between obedience to criminal sanction or religion.
According to Michael Glenn, the lawyer for Mooney, the relationship of man with divine cannot be dictated by any government or any other person.
- Associated Press – “Supreme Court rejects church’s appeal over marijuana laws”
- Associated Press – “Court: Native American church not excused from cannabis laws”
- Law 360
- Oklevueha Native American Church