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It’s right up there as number one among our Bill Of Rights: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. For over two hundred years we’ve done our best to protect people’s ‘free exercise’ rights but sometimes it gets a little fuzzy.
The other day I saw in the paper a story about a 48-year-old Mexico, Maine man who is suing the state and two law enforcement agencies, alleging that they violated his First Amendment rights by restricting access to marijuana that he says he uses as part of his religion.
In a complaint filed in Oxford County Superior Court, Norman Hutchinson identified himself as a member of the little known: “Religion of Jesus’ Church.”
According to Hutchinson, the church mandates the sacramental use of cannabis. Hutchinson claims that it "stimulates thought, evokes questions and nourishes sacred feelings."
He could be right. His cannabis sure ‘evoked’ lots of questions from police. Hutchinson pleaded guilty in 2005 to a charge of marijuana cultivation and was handed a 60-day jail term. He was later ordered to serve an additional 120 days on a probation violation charging further marijuana cultivation.
After reading the news article I had questions of my own. If this was in fact a new church I wonder what their church suppers must be like. It’s often said that cannabis ‘stimulates’ appetites and ‘evokes’ questions like: What’s to eat?
I take the whole question of church suppers seriously, because I’m a big fan of such suppers. Over the years I’ve done a lot of independent research and have discovered there’s a lot to learn about these gastronomic events that are unique to Maine.
For example, some have the notion that all church suppers are created equal and all feature some of the finest food served in Maine. I don’t know what would stimulate such fuzzy thinking but such thoughts can get you in trouble if acted on. It might even get you a plate of fuzzy food, for all I know. Fact is, you don’t want to go near a church supper that someone you have faith in hasn’t attested to – in writing if possible.
And when I say ‘faith’ I’m not talking about religious affiliation. Good or bad suppers can occur in the church hall of any denomination – Baptist, Catholic, Congregational, Methodist – any one. There are as many bad suppers as good in Maine so you just have to watch out.
Many years ago – yet I still remember it – my wife and I were heading Down East on a Saturday and as we started getting hungry we happened to pass a church that had an inviting sign out front saying: Supper Tonight.
We found a parking place and within minutes we were lining up for tickets to what we assumed would be a delicious Church supper.
Were we ever wrong. When we sat down at a table we were offered one of three beverages to start off our dining experience: water, Kool Aid or instant coffee.
It went down hill fast from there. The brown and serve rolls were brown and stale, the coleslaw was plain awful, the beans were just bad and they only had two flavors of Jello for desert – I can’t remember what the flavors were.
The thing to remember is you’ve got to know your church suppers and that would apply – of course - to Mr. Hutchinson’s cannabis church.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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