Ninth Circuit Rejects Oklevueha NAC Religious Freedom Claims to Cannibis

Here is the opinion in Oklevueha Native American Church v. Lynch.

From the syllabus:

The panel affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of federal officials, and held that the district court properly denied the plaintiffs – Oklevueha Native American Church of Hawaii, Inc. and its founder, Michael Rex “Raging Bear” Mooney – an exemption from federal laws prohibiting the possession and distribution of cannabis.
Concerning plaintiffs’ claimed violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the panel held that even assuming that plaintiffs’ use of cannabis constituted an “exercise of religion,” no rational trier of fact could conclude on the record that a prohibition of cannabis use imposed a “substantial burden” on plaintiffs’ exercise of religion. Specifically, the panel held that nothing in the record demonstrated that a prohibition on cannabis forced plaintiffs to choose between obedience to their religion and criminal sanction, such that they were being coerced to act contrary to their religious beliefs; and this was fatal to their claim. The panel also held that plaintiffs’ admission that cannabis was merely a substitute for peyote also distinguished their case from Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S. Ct. 853 (2015) (holding that there was a Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act violation where the prison’s refusal to grant a Muslim inmate a religious exemption to grow a half-inch beard forced him to choose between a violation of his religious beliefs or face serious disciplinary action).

Briefs here.

This entry was posted in Author: Matthew L.M. Fletcher, cultural resources, Research and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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