A woman in York County, Nebraska, is facing many years in prison after being convicted of operating a drug trafficking house where prosecutors said she distributed marijuana and prescription drugs.
An informant purchased marijuana from Hines, at her home in the 1200 Block of Lincoln Avenue, while under surveillance by law enforcement officers. That was enough for officers to acquire a search warrant. During the search, officers found dried cannabis flowers, seeds, stems, two parcels of cash, a digital scale, and prescription drugs that were not prescribed to Hines.
In defense of her actions, Brenda Hines, 53, claimed that her home was “The Temple of Zion” in which cannabis was used for religious purposes. The prescription drugs, she said, were not sold to followers but were instead kept in the house as part of a cooperative. Some members would donate pills so that Hines could give them to other members who needed them.
The court proceedings reflected opposing views of the cannabis use held by Hines. The prosecuting attorney, Candace Dick, argued that Hines used her home to traffic drugs while Hines said that the people who used cannabis in the house were members of the Temple of Zion.
Richard McLellan, Hines’ ex-husband and a temple resident, acted as a witness for the prosecution in exchange for a reduced sentence. McLellan testified that marijuana was sold to temple visitors, a fact that Hines disputed. She admitted to dispensing it, and reported that visitors to her home were given religious instruction when they received the marijuana.
“Everyone who uses marijuana is part of The Temple of Zion.”
“When they come to The Temple, they are initiated. I explain The Temple and how God is part of the marijuana.”
During the trial, Hines admitted that the money she received from temple members was used to support the home or temple, just as is true of any church.
As further evidence that her home was not a drug house but rather a place of worship, Hines read for 40 minutes from the Book of Isaiah, quoting verses that she said supported her religious beliefs about cannabis. According to her, the scriptures condone the use of cannabis and accurately reflect the temple’s views about the divine nature of marijuana.
Ultimately the prosecutor’s argument—that Nebraska’s drugs laws cannot be contravened for religious purposes—prevailed with the jury. Hines is now facing up to 65 years in prison.