0

The Bill of Rights, Section 5, of Kentucky’s Constitution says:

”and the civil rights, privileges or capacities of no person shall be taken away, or in anywise diminished or enlarged, on account of his belief or disbelief of any religious tenet, dogma or teaching. No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.”

I personally and sincerely believe when my particular God says:

”Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” Genesis 1:29

...that means I have the God-given right to grow and consume any plant that I wish (ex. Cannabis). Is this true, or is growing and consuming plants not considered a human right?

  • 2
    You're entitled to believe it, you're not entitled to act contrary to the laws of your state. Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Jan 12 '18 at 11:45
  • @TimLymington The last section of the Constitution says “To guard against transgression of the high powers which we have delegated, We Declare that every thing in this Bill of Rights is excepted out of the general powers of government, and shall forever remain inviolate; and all laws contrary thereto, or contrary to this Constitution, shall be void.” Should I add that to the question, or does it not make a difference? – Cannabijoy Jan 12 '18 at 12:03
  • @TimLymington How should I interpret “privileges or capacities of no person shall be taken away, or in anywise diminished or enlarged” – Cannabijoy Jan 12 '18 at 12:20
  • @TimLymington Thanks you, I made a chat room for us. – Cannabijoy Jan 12 '18 at 13:08
  • "for meat" means "to eat." Do you eat your cannabis? – phoog Jan 13 '18 at 5:06
3

If you want to sue them, you should start with the US Constitution (as a model), in particular the Free Exercise clause: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". The question is whether one could overturn homicide statutes on the grounds that an individual holds to traditional beliefs that a human sacrifice is required every few months. Or, is it an unconstitutional prohibition of the Mormon belief in polygamy to outlaw polygamy, see Reynolds v. US, 98 U.S. 145. The court held that

the statute immediately under consideration is within the legislative power of Congress. It is constitutional and valid as prescribing a rule of action for all those residing in the Territories, and in places over which the United States have exclusive control. This being so, the only question which remains is whether those who make polygamy a part of their religion are excepted from the operation of the statute. If they are, then those who do not make polygamy a part of their religious belief may be found guilty and punished, while those who do, must be acquitted and go free. This would be introducing a new element into criminal law. Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship; would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice?

Observe that a religious exception to the law would be unconstitutional, as establishing religion as a means of gaining extra rights. The reductio ad absurdum of the unfettered religious-belief excuse is:

Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and, in effect, to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances.

The "wall of separation" was modified more recently in the 60's and 70's. In Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, the issue was compulsory education imposed on Amish children, where higher education was held to be antithetical to the Amish doctrine of a simple life. The court rules that

The State's interest in universal education is not totally free from a balancing process when it impinges on other fundamental rights, such as those specifically protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the traditional interest of parents with respect to the religious upbringing of their children

and especially

it was incumbent on the State to show with more particularity how its admittedly strong interest in compulsory education would be adversely affected by granting an exemption to the Amish

There were additional holdings pertaining to the legitimacy of the purported belief (that is, is there really such a doctrine – clearly yes). You might have better luck purporting to be a Rastafarian or Hindu, so I will set aside that complication.

The core question will be whether the government has a "compelling interest" in the restriction, also whether the restriction is narrowly tailored. In the case of Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, Sherbert's employer required her to work 6 days a week (a change in policy during her time of employment), which she refused to do (as a member of SDA) and was fired. Sherbert was denied unemployment benefits because the firing was for cause. The court ruled that

Disqualification of appellant for unemployment compensation benefits, solely because of her refusal to accept employment in which she would have to work on Saturday contrary to her religious belief, imposes an unconstitutional burden on the free exercise of her religion.

and

There is no compelling state interest enforced in the eligibility provisions of the South Carolina statute which justifies the substantial infringement of appellant's right to religious freedom under the First Amendment.

Employment Div. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 brings us to the neighborhood that you are interested in living in. The relevant detail is that Smith (and Black) were fired for ingesting peyote in connection with a ceremony at a Native American church. The court ruled that

The Free Exercise Clause permits the State to prohibit sacramental peyote use, and thus to deny unemployment benefits to persons discharged for such use

To be more precise,

Although a State would be "prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]" in violation of the Clause if it sought to ban the performance of (or abstention from) physical acts solely because of their religious motivation, the Clause does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a law that incidentally forbids (or requires) the performance of an act that his religious belief requires (or forbids) if the law is not specifically directed to religious practice and is otherwise constitutional as applied to those who engage in the specified act for nonreligious reasons.

We can contrast this with Lukumi v. Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520. The city of Hialeh passed an ordinance forbidding animal sacrifice, specifically to suppress the Santeria church. The Supreme Court said, no, you may not do that:

Under the Free Exercise Clause, a law that burdens religious practice need not be justified by a compelling governmental interest if it is neutral and of general applicability. However, where such a law is not neutral or not of general application, it must undergo the most rigorous of scrutiny: It must be justified by a compelling governmental interest and must be narrowly tailored to advance that interest. Neutrality and general applicability are interrelated, and failure to satisfy one requirement is a likely indication that the other has not been satisfied

...

The ordinances' texts and operation demonstrate that they are not neutral, but have as their object the suppression of Santeria's central element, animal sacrifice.

At least so far, restrictions on drug use have not been overruled as conflicting the the Free Exercise clause, although if e.g. Washington state were to prohibit Mormons from purchasing marijuana (where others can), that would surely be struck down as unconstitutional.

There are a number of other relevant developments, for example Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993, in reaction to Employment v. Smith, and that law statutorily mandating that strict scrutiny be applied to the question of whether a law violates the 1st: but this was ruled unconstitutional as applied to the states in City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507. Then in Gonzales v. O Centro, 546 U.S. 418 (Schedule 1 tea for religious purposes), the court ruled that

The courts below did not err in determining that the Government failed to demonstrate, at the preliminary injunction stage, a compelling interest in barring the UDV’s sacramental use of hoasca

which is to say, we have a case where the federal government was prohibited from enforcing a drug prohibition involving religion.

A challenge of the type which you have in mind will surely also involve the question of the legitimacy of the purported religion, where UDV was founded in 1961 whereas one might suspect that your claimed religion is a pretext to smoke pot (hence the Rastafarian suggestion). The WWII era conscious objector cases held that the CO exception to military service is not limited to governmentally-approved religions, but as a general rule, the courts have not ruled that you can simply claim to have a religious belief which is being infringed on and thereby be excempt from the law. The basic issue would be whether either the US government of the state of Kentucky have a compelling interest in preventing the use of marijuana. The Kentucky Supreme Court does indeed recognize the concept of "strict scrutiny", so the case is not doomed from the start.

  • Thank you this is a great answer! I definitely understand why my rights should not be enlarged to accommodate my personal beliefs. I’m going to ask more questions and I hope you’ll be interested in answering them. – Cannabijoy Jan 13 '18 at 5:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.