United States v. Christie (Case Law Update)

Supreme_Court The panel affirmed the convictions of two ministers of the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry for violations of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in a case in which the defendants claim that their convictions violate their rights freely to exercise their religion, as guaranteed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). The panel held that the government has a compelling interest in mitigating the risk that cannabis from the Ministry will be diverted to recreational users, and that the facts of this case demonstrate that mandating the defendants’ full compliance with the CSA would help to advance this compelling interest to a meaningful degree. The panel held that in light of these defendants and the facts in this record, the government could not achieve its compelling interest in mitigating diversion through anything less restrictive than mandating the defendants’ full compliance with the CSA. The panel therefore rejected the defendants’ RFRA defense. Rejecting the defendants’ contention that RFRA is unconstitutionally vague, and thereby renders the CSA unconstitutionally vague, the panel explained that the Fifth Amendment has no application to RFRA, which is not a penal statute or anything like one. The panel held that the defendants’ appeal to the rule of lenity is equally untenable. The panel rejected as foreclosed by precedent the defendants’ contention that the CSA’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in issuing wiretaps in the course of investigating the Ministry, and that the district court’s determinations in denying the defendants a Franks hearing were not clearly erroneous. http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2016/06/14/14-10233.pdf

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