Judge Declares a Mistrial in Case Against Cannabis Church Leaders

Judge Declares a Mistrial in Case Against Cannabis Church Leaders

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Many of you may remember the sting operation that resulted in the issuing of citations to three leaders of the International Church of Cannabis in Denver, Colorado; they were each charged with a misdemeanor for open and public consumption of marijuana and violating the Colorado Clean Indoor Act after undercover police officers witnessed marijuana consumption at the Church’s private gathering on April 20, 2017.

Earlier this month, the judge in the case – Denver County Court Judge Fred Rodgers – declared a mistrial after prosecutors were unable to seat a 6-person jury. For 2 hours both sides jockeyed to seat the jurors they wanted, but in the end only 5 potential jurors remained. Four prospective jurors openly questioned the prosecutor on bringing the case in the first place.

“I’ve never seen that,” the defendants’ attorney Warren C. Edson said of the people that questioned the prosecution’s theory during jury selection. “Hopefully this is a wake-up call for the city that this (case) isn’t the open-and-shut matter that they think that it is.”

The inquisitive potential jurors wanted to know some basics: Why were so many officers involved in what seemed like a minor case and just how much taxpayer money was wasted on some people smoking marijuana at a private event in Denver, CO of all places – a city where marijuana smoking happens at public venues all the time?

A new trial has been set for July 11th and this time around the pool of potential jurors could be upwards of 50 people.

It seems that prosecutors and law enforcement officials mean to send some kind of message with this case. After all, is it reasonable to think that authorities are really worried about people smoking cannabis in a church? Or is it more likely that they don’t like the idea of a church centered on marijuana and want to discourage future projects of this sort?

The case comes as another reminder of how far marijuana law reform still has to go. Until every adult is free from persecution for the simple act of possessing and consuming cannabis, we are not done. Even in a state like Colorado, a place many assume is fully on board with legalization and keeping cannabis users out of the criminal justice system, there is still much work to be done.

Luckily, there are great activists all over this country working on marijuana law reform every day.

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