Ruling recommended in religious marijuana case

PORTLAND — A federal judge has recommended that the court rule in favor of the state and two law enforcement agencies in the case of a man claiming violation of his religious rights in a marijuana cultivation arrest.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk also recommended that the U.S. District Court deny a request by plaintiff Norman Hutchinson, 48, of Granite Street in Mexico. Hutchinson requested $75 million from the state and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages from the Mexico Police Department.

Hutchinson was charged with marijuana cultivation and had to forfeit an ATV in August 2004. Police found the ATV with a man tending marijuana plants off Route 2 in Dixfield, and a subsequent search of Hutchinson's residence found 55 marijuana plants, grow lights and other cultivating equipment.

In his complaint, Hutchinson says he is a member of the Religion of Jesus Church, which was founded in 1969 and is based in Hawaii. The Religion of Jesus Church mandates the smoking of marijuana based on 12 tenets, including amplification of the worship of God, increased ability to feel God and the creation of peace.

Hutchinson, who is representing himself, charged the state and law enforcement agencies with violation of the federal and state constitutions, violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, violation of the U.S. Code, false imprisonment, trespass, conversion, invasion of privacy and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In May, U.S. District Court Judge George Singal ruled in favor of the state and MDEA on the latter six charges, saying Hutchinson had not filed a notice of claim within the statute of limitations. Kravchuk recommended the same ruling for the Mexico Police Department on those charges, based on Singal's ruling and Hutchinson's failure to disprove the department's statement of facts.

In her motion for the state and MDEA, Attorney General Janet Mills said the issue of religious use of marijuana has been addressed before.

"State and federal courts have uniformly upheld the constitutionality of laws [...] prohibiting the possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana, even if such laws infringe on the free exercise of religion," Mills said.

mlangeveld@sunjournal.com

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 's picture

If a person represents

If a person represents himself in court, it is probably because he can't afford a lawyer. That doesn't make him an idiot, or unworthy of respect. It's true he is not the first to try a religious defense, and that has never succeeded before. I am skeptical about the claim of marijuana being part of anyone's religion; but then I think marijuana should be legal anyway.

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