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Native American Church sues DEA over right to religious use of marijuana | The NORML Stash Blog

I am the producer of The NORML Network, the host of the NORML SHOW LIVE and The NORML Stash Blog, and NORML's Outreach Coordinator. I'm married, live in Portland, Oregon, and I am a registered medical marijuana caregiver in this state. I've worked days as an IT geek and nights as a professional musician. Previously, I have been the host of my own political talk radio show on satellite radio. I've been the High Times "Freedom Fighter of the Month" and I travel across the country to educate people on marijuana reform. I've dedicated my life to bringing an end to adult marijuana prohibition and re-legalizing cannabis hemp, and I'm honored to be chosen by NORML to give voice to the Marijuana Nation and to speak for those who can't speak up.


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31 responses to “Native American Church sues DEA over right to religious use of marijuana”

  1. Rebekah Copas

    The Aboriginal Tent Embassy here in Australia, assures folk who need the information, that there is a historical record of a sailing ship having sighted cannabis growing along one of the coasts of Australia, prior to European’s arriving in that region. Given that immigration to Australia is not new to the invasion of Europeans, (as recent as 1788, so we are only just beginning to cop on the the invaders meanings, according to unpublished sociology research at Griffith Uni, asserting that invaded populations require 200 years before being able to integrate the invaders culture within their own), and that oral histories tell of movements of Indians, Chinese, and Muslims, into Australia in earlier times, (Chinese and Muslim immigration is backed up by archaelogical evidence also), I am not surprised at that report. However, in general, our flora and fauna here tend to be more discrete from flora and fauna of other lands, and these days, we are learning much about the medicine plants of many lands, but have yet to inform the rest of the world of our own medicines. Maybe marijuhana is among.

    But one thing is certain. Nobody ever gained wealth from chewing Pituri, our native tobacco, that gets treated with DMT via acacia roots.

  2. robert d cremeans

    i think if they can prove indians of the past cultures used it and they are practicing thier old beliefs to help restore indian culture it should be allowed and a day set to celebrate indian culture should be instated into are country r very own origins i am a mix of 9 different races but i have lineage from six different tribes mainly cherokee but 1 family member that was a blackfooted indian,shawnee indian and some of my kids have apache indian from thier mothers side and even more cherokee and my other kids have some indian just cherokee but are mainly german from thier mothers side she half german but i feel as if the indians should not be given stuff for all thier ancestors mistreatment cuz i think indians of old would have wanted to be remember i mean they did die for thier beliefs why not celebrate like an indian they werent savages the savages were actually the english they had went to war with other people for doing the same they were doing to the indians such as attacking another group of people for their resources was considered barbaric so the english use propagandic excuses for thier action they used the same technique as a person we would consider to have thinking errors such as justifying thier wrong doing saying they are savages they are cannibalistic they are constantly waring with each other they are uncivilized brutes the english would give the indians land to english settlers and when the indians would complain to the english the english would goto war saying the indians have become violent and colonist are in danger the english was very good liars so most english saw indians as brutish and savages the english would send people with smallpox and many more fatal diseases to the indians to speak with them about peace and trade then would leave and return three years later when they were all or mostly dead when the diseases wasnt killing them off fast enough for the english and american growing populations they would goto battle the indians had stole english weapons to stand a chance but yet disease had already wreaked havok on all indian population to bad the indians didnt have fatal diseases here before the english like africa cuz at first they didnt want african land just the people and alot of african tribes kept thier culture to bad for the indians it like this as a metaphore the indians had clean water and the english polluted it and only some survived and were prosecuted for believing hundreds of thousands of years of making thier culture but like european countries at the time couldnt see to just grow and watch how this untouched country developed on its own man european countries should never have done what they did to native americans,china,or africa.i just think we should have a day to remember indians cuz indians of old were not greedy they were resourceful never using all the resources n one spot they would move to different locations every ten years to and would not return to that same spot for 50 to a 100 years they would move around in almost like a circle they was the protector of mother nature

  3. Rev JZ

    Folks, when the U.S. was experiencing prohibition from alcohol, there was an exception for sacramental wine. So too does Religious Freedom Restoration Act provide for sacramental use of Schedule I drugs. Our legal history with drug prohibition clearly contemplates religious exceptions. The reason religion gets a ‘special pass’ is because our Constitution supports this notion in the First Amendment. But the First Amendment does not allow folks to break the law (i.e, you are not entitled to be under the influence while driving).

    I too believe that the best line of attack for moderate legalization is with religion.

    I support what the Hawaii Native American Church is doing.

  4. Joseph Trout

    Ok I may not be smart, have a college degree, or be old enough to have half the wisdom any of you have. But I do have common sence… but lets see if you guys have common sence as well- Ok most people think anything against the law is bad right, well their wrong. Alot of laws are put down because they are bad but most people dont think hmm…. suicide is put as a law because it unmoral, but now why is marijuana put down as a law because as far as im concerned by cigs and drinking being legal that means the governments saying its ok to kill yourself but only if you’re paying the government to do so. Gallup’s October Crime poll finds 44% of Americans in favor of making marijuana legal and 54% opposed (HERES THE CITATION- http://www.gallup.com/poll/123728/u.s.-support-legalizing-marijuana-reaches-new-high.aspx ). That means 44% of US supports marijuana or smokes it. Phd sicologists once said 1/2 the people who vote against marijuana do so becuase they think its wrong because its against the law which means half the 54% that voted against would really vote for it. so the new numbers would be 26% against and 70% for.

    But now we have the people who say marijuana is bad for your health ok so heres the cons and lets compair them to whats legal ( HERES THE CITATION- http://lifestyle.iloveindia.com/lounge/effects-of-marijuana-4653.html)-

    Cons-

    Short-term Effects
    Distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch), problems with memory and learning, lack of proper coordination, trouble with problem-solving, increased heart rate and reduced blood pressure are some of the short-term effects of marijuana.– Dosen’t drinking do the same.

    Effects on the Brain
    Marijuana contains an active ingredient, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC that acts on the cannabinoid receptors of the nerve cells and influences the activities of the cells, like pleasure, memory, thought, concentration, sensory, time perception and coordinated movement. High doses of marijuana, when consumed through food, can cause hallucinations, delusions, impaired memory and disorientation.– Once again haven’t you ever drank so much you don’t remember anything.

    Effects on the Heart
    The heart beat increases rapidly and the blood pressure drops within minutes of smoking marijuana. A person’s heart beat can increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute. A marijuana smoker is three times more at a risk of heart attack.– Now dosen’t cigeretts do the same thing except cigs also give you cancer.

    Effects on the Lungs
    Burning and stinging of the mouth and throat and heavy coughing are some effects that are caused by smoking marijuana, even infrequently. Marijuana causes respiratory problems in smokers, such as daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illness, increased risk of lung infections and obstructed airways. Marijuana smokers are three times more likely to develop head and neck cancer, as compared to non-smokers.– Once again cigc have way worst effects for cancer.

    Effects during Pregnancy
    Studies have found that mothers who have used marijuana during pregnancy have given birth to children who are likely to exhibit problems with neurological developments. Prenatal marijuana exposure can cause altered responses to visual stimuli, increased tremulousness, problems with sustained attention and memory and poor problem-solving skills.–Well duh everyone knows you should’t drink or smoke sigs when pregnant plus you shouldn’t eat fish when your pregnant dose that mean fish is bad too.

    Pros-

    Marijuana has been used to enhance the appetite of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.– Ok so this means all of these cancers good for marijuana use- please check this site- (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/alphalist)

    Studies have shown that marijuana is beneficial in relieving a person from the uneasy feeling of nausea.– this means car sick, air sick, and sea sick and any other nausea causes.

    Doctors have made use of marijuana, successfully, in the treatment of neurogenic pain.– that means that it can be used for anything on this site- (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_neurological_disorders)

    The people suffering from glaucoma, asthma and spasticity have been found to have benefited from the consumption of marijuana.

    Marijuana can help relieve the chronic pain and suffering of people with incurable diseases like cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, etc.– meaning almost any sexualy transfered disease as well so any of these- Gonorrhea
    Herpes
    Chlamydia
    Crabs or Pubic Lice
    Syphilis
    Vaginitis
    Genital Warts

    Marijuana is regarded to be a ‘mind opener’ i.e. it can help people broaden their outlook and think creatively.– and now we can have a smarter country as well.

    So why is marijuana ilegal then-
    Simple the goverment gets money for people who drink and do cigs. How can they make money using a drug thats able to be virtually grown anywhere.

    And what I really believe is marijuana chould be made legal to smoke as soon as you hit the age of 18 and anyone can smoke it because there are no benifits from cigs and drinking but there are benifits from marijuana so how is marijuana bad?

  5. Sam Tx

    I heard it went through. Is that true? Curtain things are currently being ironed out to see if it will recognized here in TX.
    What kind of “record” system must be employed to tally and verify membership??
    Much love to you Mooney
    Aho

  6. god

    well, if you think EVERYONE should be able to enjoy cannabis, does that include “non-sick” ppeople? if yes then why hop on the medical marijuana train, so it can be that much more regulated?

    spiritual practices are why anywas does anything, to “feel the good within” which is where entheogen comes from. freedom is godly

  7. Erick McNulty

    I am an 18 y.o who has smoked marijuana and I have never taken a look into the legality and the harder issues of the government view on marijuana. I found out I was part Native American (not sure which tribe yet) and so I decided to check out more on the topic of Native Americans and Marijuana use and found this site. I have read these previous comments and I have truly learned much and read some very well supported opinions. I don’t have really anything to add but I would like to say “Thank you” to Mr. Belville and evryone else for helping me to understand in depth about laws and previous precedents made on the account of marijuana…XD

  8. Will Casinos Cater to Pot-Smokers in the Future? - 420 Magazine

    [...] wrong about that plant, pick a less popular, much more psychotropic hallucinogenic one. Source: Native American Church sues DEA over right to religious use of marijuana | NORML __________________ 420 Magazine News Team Creating Cannabis Awareness Since 1993 [...]

  9. James WFE Mooney

    Dave,keep in mind there are no less than five industry’s; paper, cloth, plastics,pharmaceutical, the judicial war on drugs (70% of all court and incarceration expenses and ineffective drug rehab centers or resorts)and etc., that are benefiting immensely by suppressing the mass cultivation,harvesting and distribution of cannabis.

    These industry’s will use their political and financial influences to protect their lively hoods prosperous.

    However, they will not disrupt the first amendment pertaining to the only congressional and United Nations recognized Earth Based Healing Religion.

  10. Dave Storyteller

    Here’s the truth of the matter: Nothing will stop marijuana from becoming legal for everyone. There are 27 states ready to legalize it and 3 that I know of where in some parts of their state allow consumption and cultivation. In ten years marijuana will be legal in every state. The feds better get used to the idea. It’s coming and acceptance by the general populace if over 60%. So no matter how it is ruled on today, tomorrow it’s a moot issue. Prepare for marijuana. It’s time has come.

  11. Evil Dick

    Damn! This is great stuff. Thanks to all of you who have taken a stand in the courts to insist that the government respect your rights.

    Maybe if we all worked together we could make better progress. I don’t think that the Stash is the best place for such deliberations. If anyone knows of a site that is hosting serious discussions about legal challenges to the prohibition laws, please post a link.

    -ED

  12. Reverend

    I agree.

    A UNANIMOUS Supreme Court (Opinion written by Justice John Roberts) said the following about religious use of peyote….which opens the door for cannabis…

    Gonzalez v O CENTRO ESPIRITA BENEFICENTE UNIAO DO VEGETAL (2005)

    The Government responds that there is a “unique relationship” between the United States and the Tribes, Brief for Petitioners 27; see Morton v. Mancari, 417 U. S. 535 (1974), but never explains what about that “unique” relationship
    justifies overriding the same congressional findings on which the Government relies in resisting any exception for the UDV’s religious use of hoasca. In other words, if any Schedule I substance is in fact always highly dangerous in any amount no matter how used, what about the unique relationship with the Tribes justifies allowing their use of peyote? Nothing about the unique political status of the Tribes makes their members immune from the health risks the Government asserts accompany any use of a Schedule I substance, nor insulates the Schedule I substance the Tribes use in religious exercise from the alleged risk of diversion.
    The Government argues that the existence of a congressional exemption for peyote does not indicate that the Controlled Substances Act is amenable to judicially crafted exceptions. RFRA, however, plainly contemplates that courts would recognize exceptions—that is how the law works. See 42 U. S. C. §2000bb–1(c) (“A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government”). Congress’ role in the peyote exemption confirms that the findings in the Controlled Substances Act do not preclude
    exceptions altogether; RFRA makes clear that it is the obligation of the courts to consider whether exceptions are required under the test set forth by Congress.

    I’m not sayin’ it, Justice Roberts did. He said- One religious group (Native Americans) cannot receive a benefit (consuming a Schecdule-I drug) if the right is not provided to all (Equal Protection Clause, US Constitution).

    Your Minister.

  13. Reverend

    I respectfully disagree with your understanding of the law on the this matter. A UNANIMOUS Supreme Court (Opinion written by Justice John Roberts) said the following about religious use of peyote….which opens the door for cannabis….

    Gonzalez v O CENTRO ESPIRITA BENEFICENTE UNIAO DO VEGETAL (2005)

    The Government responds that there is a “unique relationship” between the United States and the Tribes, Brief for Petitioners 27; see Morton v. Mancari, 417 U. S. 535 (1974), but never explains what about that “unique” relationship
    justifies overriding the same congressional findings on which the Government relies in resisting any exception for the UDV’s religious use of hoasca. In other words, if any Schedule I substance is in fact always highly dangerous in any amount no matter how used, what about the unique relationship with the Tribes justifies allowing their use of peyote? Nothing about the unique political status of the Tribes makes their members immune from the health risks the Government asserts accompany any use of a Schedule I substance, nor insulates the Schedule I substance the Tribes use in religious exercise from the alleged risk of diversion.
    The Government argues that the existence of a congressional exemption for peyote does not indicate that the Controlled Substances Act is amenable to judicially crafted exceptions. RFRA, however, plainly contemplates that courts would recognize exceptions—that is how the law works. See 42 U. S. C. §2000bb–1(c) (“A person whose religious exercise has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government”). Congress’ role in the peyote exemption confirms that the findings in the Controlled Substances Act do not preclude
    exceptions altogether; RFRA makes clear that it is the obligation of the courts to consider whether exceptions are required under the test set forth by Congress.

    I’m not syin’ it, Justice Roberts did. He siad – 8-) One religious group (Native Americans) cannot receive a benefit (consuming a Schecdule-I drug) if the right is not provided to all (Equal Protection Clause, US Constitution).

    And atheists can ‘practice’ religion in a house-of-worship. You may pray to your understanding of “a higher power” and share in consumption of sacrament/communion.

    Finally – “[T]here are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is the same as that of the religious fanatics, and it springs from the same source . . . They are creatures who can’t hear the music of the spheres.” – Albert Einstein

    Your Minister.

  14. Patrick Duff

    Again Russ, you are wrong and your opinion is based without facts to support it. If you knew anything about me you’d know I have won a federal case allowing me to use my sacrament of marijuana. I am not the only person with this decision either.

    The religious use of cannabis has been the way people used it for thousands of years. Of course it’s good s a medicine, it’s the tree of life, the most useful plant on the planet.

    Please Russ, do some research before you start spouting off legal matters like this one, or do you just speak for NORML when you defame the religious use of cannabis?

    Look up Guam Vs. Guerrero, or USA vs. Forchion, which is my case.

    As to your argument that you don’t like it because you are not protected the same, what about medical marijuana? If you have the ailment, and money, then, and only then, can you be legal in California. That’s selective, that leaves out the healthy and poor and leads to prosecution of black and brown people who weren’t so well informed about the law because NORML doesn’t go to the ghetto.

    NORML’s leaders have told me to my face that they don’t support the religious use of cannabis and never will. So that leads me to believe they would try and raise the same propaganda here.

  15. James WFE Mooney

    “Exactly who in government is authorized to determine whether my beliefs and practices are “acceptable” and give them the official stamp of approval?” NO ONE!

    “And doesn’t just having to ask such a question fly in the face of everything this country used to stand for?” YES IT DOES!

  16. RUNorml

    oops

  17. RUNorml

    Exactly who in government is authorized to determine whether my beliefs and practices are “acceptable” and give them the official stamp of approval? :idk: And doesn’t just having to ask such a question fly in the face of everything this country used to stand for?

  18. RUNorml

    Exactly who in government is authorized to determine whether my beliefs and practices are “acceptable” and give them the official stamp of approval? And doesn’t just having to ask such a question fly in the face of everything this country used to stand for?

  19. James WFE Mooney

    Another comment to Mr. Glenn’s post “we have proof that the NAC distributes cannabis to non-members” this is like saying we are watching the Catholic Church and we, the DEA, decides on who the church gives their Sacrament and when they are to give it, or they have the right to go through the Catholic Churches files to verify who is a member or not a member, how absurd that we pay these people to come up with these bogus excuses to cover up their breaking activities!

  20. James WFE Mooney

    Mr. Glenn,

    True story on every point.

  21. Michael Rex Raging Bear Mooney

    Oklevueha NAC does not discriminate against any races, gender, political, social or financial status.
    All are welcome to participate in these sacred ceremonies.

    Much Love & Gratitude,
    Michael RRB Mooney

  22. Evil Dick

    You know how they ask that question: if you could go back in time and speak with anyone, who would it be? For me, it would be the late 1780’s and the Founding Fathers. I’d explain to them what’s happened to the Bill of Rights they’re crafting and ask them to be painfully specific about personal privacy, freedom of thought, duty of the press, self-protection, cruel and unusual punishments, state sovereignty, whether money equals speech, and for Pete’s sake, would you put something in there about an inalienable right to grow any crop, you cotton, tobacco, and hemp farmers?

    I think it would be much more interesting if you could bring the founding fathers to our current time and discuss with them whether they are pleased with the corrupt and oppressive mess into which their government has evolved.

    -ED

  23. Evil Dick

    Russ,

    Thanks for that great and thoughtful reply. The Raich decision has to be revisited. That decision is bunk. We need to push back on the court and demand that they demonstrate this assertion of “fungibility.” They cannot just proclaim that such fungibility exists, and then decide law upon this unfounded assertion. That’s nonsense. This decision will have to be revisited. Maybe NORML could start an analysis and/or discussion about what actual fungibility might possibly exist. It seems to me that they were asserting that the government has a legitimate interest in keeping the price of cannabis high. The effect of fungibility on the interstate cannabis market, if individual states were allowed to grow, would be to decrease the price, due to increased supply within each state. If each state were allowed to grow their own, it might drastically reduce the need for interstate shipments of the product. This seems to be in line with the Feds goals to prohibit, eliminate, or reduce interstate commerce related to cannabis. Now, if the court is asserting that the government has a legitimate interest in keeping the price of cannabis high, I think they owe us a more elaborate explanation of their reasoning. It is the high price that brings the violent criminal elements into the market.

    Still, what is at stake is the freedom of individual citizens. The court needs to weigh this alleged economic concern, claimed in Raich, against the citizen’s rights that are being infringed by the prohibition laws. In the case of medical use and religious use, hands down they will never be able to demonstrate that the harm caused by allowing this use exceeds the harm caused by prohibition. Like medical use, recreational use is a ninth amendment issue. However, a competent lawyer should be able to construct a solid case relying – of all things – one of the fundamental principles espoused in the Roe v Wade case. Check out the opinion of Harry Blackmun in the Roe v Wade case:

    …the “right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

    In enacting prohibition, congress has overstepped its legitimate authority. If we are to be a country of free citizens, then it is important that the government restrict our rights only when absolutely necessary, and only to the extent that is absolutely necessary. Exceeding that is not a legitimate act of government; it is an act of oppression.

    Certainly, if a woman has the right to end the life of her unborn child, then we, as free citizens, under the same penumbra of privacy, have the right to calmly and responsibly sit out on our back porch and smoke a big doobie while listening to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” album, as was the wont of our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln.

    -ED

  24. Evil Dick

    The First Amendment to the US Constitution should be sufficient to protect the rights of every American to responsibly use cannabis for religious purposes. Depriving citizens of their rights, based on ethnic heritage is something that should not be tolerated.

    The battle is best won, and will only truly be won, in court. So Kudos to these guys for taking their argument to the proper forum. The problem is that they seem to be basing their case on a law enacted by congress. Congress has no authority to enact law regarding this matter.

    The very first words of the Bill of Rights (which limits the power of government):

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

    That is pretty clear to me.

    -ED

  25. Mr. Glenn

    The word your looking for is diversion.

    This fear must also be proven by the Feds, not just alleged, and must be party-specific, i.e. “we have proof that the NAC distributes cannabis to non-members.” Such proof does not exist.

    The unique nature of The Native American Church and the congressionally mandated policy to protect tradition, coupled with the fact that Rosa Maria (cannabis) has always been utilized (during times of few buttons especially), and the utter lack of any compelling interest to prevent a benign non-toxic herb from being vaporized; while allowing a potent, shall I say “visually stimulating” cactus to be used, is as irrational as the alcohol swab before the lethal injection shot.

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