PORTLAND – Two law-enforcement agencies and the state of Maine have denied accusations by a 48-year-old Mexico man that his religious rights were violated when his marijuana was seized.

Norman A. Hutchinson filed suit against the Mexico Police Department, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the state of Maine last month in Oxford County Superior Court. The case was transferred to U.S. District Court in Portland after police said the federal laws involved in Hutchinson’s accusations required the case to be heard there.

Hutchinson argues that he is a member of the Religion of Jesus Church, which mandates the use of cannabis based on 12 tenets.

Those tenets include the belief that marijuana “increases ability to feel the presence of God,” creates peace and is a “good-thought stimulating neuro-hormone.”

In August 2004, the Dixfield Police Department told the MDEA that they had discovered a man tending marijuana plants along Route 2 in Dixfield.

On a tip from the man, police searched Hutchinson’s home at 21 Granite St. and seized 55 marijuana plants, grow lights, air and water circulation systems and processed marijuana from two grow rooms.

Hutchinson was indicted on a charge of aggravated marijuana cultivation and pleaded guilty in September 2005 to an amended charge of misdemeanor marijuana cultivation.

He was sentenced to serve 60 days of a 364-day sentence, and later sentenced to serve an additional 120 days on a probation violation charging more cultivation.

Hutchinson was also ordered to forfeit his ATV, which police alleged was being used to cultivate marijuana. The ATV went to the Dixfield Police Department.

Hutchinson charges police and the state with violation of his religious rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Section 3 of the Maine Constitution; violation of the Religious Restoration Act of 1993; violation of his civil rights under the U.S. Code; false imprisonment; trespass; unjustified confiscation of the marijuana and his all-terrain vehicle; invasion of privacy; and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In a reply filed by lawyers for the Mexico Police Department, the police acknowledge that Hutchinson was arrested at his home and that evidence was seized as part of the department’s official duties.

The department denies all charges against it.

The department also said Hutchinson’s conduct “was the sole or a contributing cause of his injuries” and that police did not “violate any clearly established constitutional or statutory rights” of Hutchinson.

In a reply from the Maine Attorney General’s Office, the state of Maine and the MDEA deny all charges against them and state that Hutchinson’s “own conduct bars or reduces the value of his claims” and that police “did not reflect deliberate indifference to federally protected rights.”

In a one-paragraph reply to the Mexico Police, Hutchinson accuses the department of entering his residence without a search warrant and says his lawyer “sold (him) out” during the criminal proceedings.

According to court records, Hutchinson’s lawyer sought to have the criminal case dismissed on religious grounds and later filed a motion to introduce passages from the King James Bible as evidence.

Following his conviction, Hutchinson unsuccessfully appealed to the Oxford County Superior Court and Maine Supreme Judicial Court to amend his probation conditions to allow him to use marijuana and retrieve his ATV.

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