You got to separate church and state like they’re seeds and stems. It’s mild good news for cannabis advocates, religious freedom advocates, and six jurors who would have had to sit through a pretty pointless trial. A mistrial has been declared in the case against leaders of the International Church of Cannabis, as reported by The Cannabist.
Steve Berke, Briley Hale, and Lee Molloy all face two misdemeanor charges of open and public cannabis consumption. Members of the Denver Police Department went undercover last spring to attend the church’s private indoor 4/20 celebration, and issued citations to the three church founders.
But the presiding judge in the case could not find six jurors who would try the case. 21 people were called for jury duty, six were dismissed, leaving a pool of only 15 potential jurors, not enough to fill the jury after the prosecution and defense both exercised their right to strike six jurors a piece from the roster.
During the jury selection process, things apparently got testy, with potential jurors openly questioning the merits of the trial the prosecutor and judge. “I pay taxes and wonder how my tax dollars are being utilized,” one told the judge. Another questioned why such a case required the testimony of the seven police detectives who appeared on the prosecution’s witness lists.
“I’m struggling with the amount of resources put towards this,” another said, according to Leafly. That juror also questioned why this event was a prosecutable offense while Denver PD typically ignored public cannabis consumption in music venues like the city’s Red Rocks Amphitheater.
“I’ve never seen that,” Warren C. Edson, defence attorney for the church leaders, said of the jurors’ behavior. “Hopefully this is a wake-up call for the city that this isn’t the open-and-shut matter that they think that it is.”
The trial is rescheduled for July 11.
Photo via Flickr user WeedPornDaily