Do some folks have the religious right to use marijuana as part of a sacrament?

It's a question we joked off when L.A. marijuana dispensary owner NJ Weedman sued the city of L.A. after his Liberty Temple II was targeted for extinction: He claimed the religious right to cannabis because the shop was a place for acts of Rastafarian worship. Irie.

Turns out a California-based U.S. court says that if you smoke dope for purposes of a higher power (and don't we all) …

… you might actually have a case:

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week said the Oklevueha Native American Church in Hawaii, part of the Native American Church, could pursue its case against the government for “declaratory and injunctive relief” after feds took some of its pot in 2009 and appeared, at least, to threaten more legal action.

The government destroyed the weed, one pound worth, and said it wouldn't pursue the case.

A lower denied the claims against the U.S. Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration as a result of the ultimate lack of prosecution, but the liberal Ninth District judges said that didn't matter — the church still has a case.

The ruling (PDF) states that there is a …

… justiciable case and controversy about plaintiffs' constitutional and statutory entitlement to use marijuana for religious purposes …

The Ninth Circuit Court did, however, say the plaintiff won't get its weed back:

We AFFIRM the dismissal of the claims for return of, or compensation for, the seized marijuana. We REVERSE the dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. The parties shall bear their own costs of appeal.

Plaintiff Michael Rex “Raging Bear” Mooney argues that church members, who already have federal protection to use peyote, should be allowed to use pot under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

If he wins this case you can just imagine the level of religious conversion that will happen throughout the West? Every pot shop in L.A. will become a church overnight.

Traditional preachers ain't got nothin' on the power of weed. Hallelujah.

[@dennisjromero / / @LAWeeklyNews]

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