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Court Hears Case Of Religious Pot Use


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A Craig couple is arguing that their marijuana convictions should be overturned because a liquefied form of the drug was only used as an ointment in their religious practices.

Michael and Maria Lineker appealed the convictions, and the Alaska Court of Appeals in October sent the case back to Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks "to determine whether the Linekers' possession of marijuana was protected under the free exercise clause of the Alaska Constitution."

The Linekers were arrested in 2003 after police discovered 50 marijuana plants in a hidden room behind a freezer in their Craig home. Police found no paraphernalia related to smoking, ingesting or selling marijuana.

The state charged them with fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, a felony.

The Linekers filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, claiming that their possession was protected under state and federal rights to privacy and free exercise of religion. Weeks denied the motion but preserved the Linekers' right to appeal that decision.

In 2004, the Linekers entered plea bargains with the state. They both pleaded guilty, he to fourth degree misconduct, she to fourth-degree attempted misconduct. He received seven days and she got a suspended sentence.

However, the couple appealed, and Weeks heard arguments last week after the higher court sent the case back to him to determine whether a religion was involved, if Linekers' conduct in question was religiously based, and whether they were sincere in their religious beliefs.

Michael Lineker testified his research of ancient Jewish and Hindu scriptures led to his belief that a liquid extract of marijuana buds is an essential ingredient of an anointing oil used since ancient times.

The anointing fluid is made by mixing a half gallon of liquefied marijuana with half a gallon of olive oil, and was used as only one part of a larger spiritual ritual, he said.

Other elements of the ritual to be followed by any member of his church include abstaining from alcohol and drugs, fasting, medication and prayer and cleansing internal organs with purified water.

After water purification, human skin becomes like a tongue, said Lineker, able to absorb herbs such as the liquefied cannabis and olive oil when it is poured over the body.

That "sacrament," he said, nudges the aspirant into "God-consciousness."

Growing marijuana plants is part of the religious practice, and including rituals performed at various stages of the plant's growth, he said.

Lineker said he eventually harvested the flowers of each plant and destroyed the rest. He used a hand juicer to render the buds into a green, watery liquid, which he then mixed with olive oil so that the cannabis juice wouldn't just run off the skin.

While admitting that he had smoked marijuana in his life, Lineker said that he now believes it was a sacrilege to do so.

"Smoking is not part of my life – period," Lineker said.

Under cross-examination, Lineker told state prosecutor Rick Svobodny that he performed the anointing ceremony "at most, three times (in one) year."

The full name of his religion is "United Global Mankind – Divine Maintenance and Direction," Lineker said. However, he did tell Svobodny that since his wife doesn't like to participate in the sacrament, it was presently a religion of one person.

Lineker said he became an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church on June 23, 2003, about one month after his arrest, and was also a member of the Hawaiian Cannabis Ministry.

"Basically, the Universal Life Church has no tenets to it, does it, except that everybody should be able to believe what they want to believe?" asked Svobodny.

"Yes," Lineker replied.

Svobodny asked if the church had any ethical underpinnings or creed.

"Not that I've found," Lineker answered to both questions.

"There's really no ethical belief?" Svobodny asked.

"I have not had an opportunity to investigate this church," Lineker said.

Svobodny then asked whether it was misleading of him, at his 2004 sentencing, when speaking about his religious beliefs, "to be presenting to the court a binder that shows that you're a minister in the Universal Life Church?"

"Yes," Lineker said.

Weeks scheduled a four-day hearing beginning April 21 to consider the state's argument that marijuana laws should be enforced, and that the Linekers should not be exempt from them, even if the judge finds in their favor.

Source: Ketchikan Daily News (Alaska)
Author: Associated Press
Copyright: 2007 Associated Press
Website: Ketchikan Daily News
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