Arizona Marijuana Law: Something You Probably Already Knew About Marijuana and Religion

Just in case there was any doubt, the Arizona Court of Appeals made it official that your religious beliefs are not a legal defense to the crime of Possession of Marijuana.
In the case of State v. Hardesty, Mr. Hardesty was charged with possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. After a routine traffic stop, drugs were found in Mr. Hardesty car.  He claimed that the drugs were part of his religion, and tried to assert a defense under the Freedom of Religion Act.
He argued that under both the federal and state constitutions, the Act protected his use of the drug. While many people believe that government may not restrict religious activity, this is simply untrue. The court here points out that the Government may restrict religious activity if: (1) the restriction furthers a substantial government interest, and (2) there is no less restrictive means of furthering the interest. The least restrictive means refers to an alternative way to protect the asserted interest, without a complete ban on the activity.  Here, Hardesty claimed that his religion allowed him to smoke and eat marijuana wherever, whenever, and in whatever amounts he felt necessary.
On the other hand, the government argued that there is a substantial interest is public safety, and a complete ban on its use is necessary. The court agreed with the government’s public interest argument.  The Court went on to there is no other way to insure public safety aside from the ban on marijuana use, because Hardesty insisted he could use marijuana at anytime and anyplace.
This one was not that hard to predict.  If you have question about a specific legal issue please contact the Koplow Law Firm.
Lawrence Koplow

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