Trial date reset for 2 in pot church

The criminal-trial date for the founders of a Southeastern Arizona church that deifies marijuana has been rescheduled for Feb. 20 in Albuquerque.

Dan and Mary Quaintance had been scheduled to go on trial next Tuesday, but U.S. District Judge Judith C. Herrera granted them extra time to prepare.

The Quaintances and their lawyers had asked for a 30-day extension in light of Herrera’s recent ruling that the Quaintances do not have a “sincere” religious belief.

The Quaintances face criminal charges of possessing more than 100 pounds of marijuana and of conspiracy to distribute it. They were arrested on Feb. 22, 2006, in Lordsburg, N.M.

The couple say they don’t grow their “sacrament” but rather rely on donations of it, which they pick up from church “couriers.” That’s what they say they were about to do when they were arrested.

The pair say they founded their Church of Cognizance in Pima — about 90 miles northeast of Tucson — in 1991. The church’s motto is: “With good thoughts, good words and good deeds, we honor marijuana; as the teacher, the provider, the protector.”

While the Quaintances had maintained that their case should be dismissed based on both the First Amendment and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Herrera wrote that evidence shows the couple adopted their religious belief in marijuana as a sacrament and deity “in order to justify their lifestyle choice to use marijuana.”

The Quaintances, both in their 50s, each face up to 40 years in federal prison if they are convicted as charged.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday January 12, 2007.
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