Religious freedom claim at crux of marijuana suit

Posted Jan. 24, 2009, at 12:55 p.m.

PARIS, Maine — A 48-year-old Mexico man is suing the state and two law enforcement agencies, alleging they violated his constitutional rights by restricting access to marijuana that he uses for religious reasons.

In a complaint filed in Oxford County Superior Court, Norman Hutchinson identified himself as a member of the Religion of Jesus Church. The church mandates the sacramental use of cannabis and Hutchinson claims it “stimulates thought, evokes questions and nourishes sacred feelings.”

Hutchinson pleaded guilty in 2005 to marijuana cultivation and was handed a 60-day jail term. He later was ordered to serve an additional 120 days on a probation violation charging further marijuana cultivation.

Named as defendants in his lawsuit are the state, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Mexico Police Department.