Calling hallucinogenic mushrooms a ‘gift from God' certainly a novel defense

By chillinwill · Apr 27, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    Clifton Ingram may not be a brilliant legal strategist, but I've got to admit he's got gumption to spare.

    Enough to plead for leniency in front of the district attorney while quite high — but we'll get to that in a minute.

    Ingram, 32, strongly believes that God gave us marijuana and mushrooms and that these “gifts” should be celebrated, not used as a cause to arrest folks. As he was arrested for possession of mushrooms in December, he hopes to plead this defense to a jury.

    “The point I'm trying to make is that God's law is higher than man's law,” Ingram told me. He was out protesting downtown last week, carrying a sign that said “Mushrooms & marijuana come from God.”

    A little background: Ingram had planned to attend the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam on Dec. 13 and was sitting in his car near downtown, sipping on a cold beer out of a coffee mug and sampling a hallucinogenic mushroom or two.

    “I had the bag open, and I put one in between my lip and my teeth — I put it in sort of as a dip, because you really don't need that much,” Ingram said. “I looked over, and I had blue lights on me.”

    He wasn't hallucinating quite yet. Asheville's finest were on the scene and proceeded to search his vehicle and discovered what they said was 10 grams of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

    Ingram disputes that amount, noting that he bought a quarter-ounce, or seven grams, and had taken some, leaving at most 6 grams. At any rate, he found himself charged with felony possession of illegal drugs.

    It's a Class-I felony, and Ingram has a relatively clean record, so he's likely facing a maximum sentence of probation and mandatory drug testing. But Ingram, a graduate of Auburn University with a degree in management information systems, doesn't want his record besmirched.

    “Not only that, but I can't run for public office, I can't vote, I can't go to law school — this felony would basically follow me for the rest of the life,” he said.

    So, with his public defender, he recently went to seek leniency or possibly dismissal of the charges from District Attorney Ron Moore. The meeting did not go well, possibly because Ingram admittedly got quite stoned before the visit.

    “This guy was mean,” Ingram said of Moore, acknowledging that “my eyes were red from smoking marijuana. He was trying to get me to rat out who the mushrooms were from. He said, ‘Where did the mushrooms come from?' I said, ‘From God.'”

    He replied similarly when asked where the pot came from and says Moore quickly lost patience with him, saying Ingram should not drive home. “He lumped me into a bunch of people he considers no-gooders,” Ingram said.

    Ron Moore was out last week and I couldn't get a comment from him. Assistant District Attorney Chris Hess said the office does not comment on pending cases.

    I've talked to Moore — a law and order kind of guy who can be a real hard case — many times — and I suspect he was not amused with Ingram's legal approach.

    Ingram says he has a court date Monday, but the DA's office said he's on the docket for May 4. Today's hearing may be about the legality of the search and a motion for suppression Ingram's public defender has filed.

    Ingram said his public defender (who didn't return my calls) is going to argue the search that turned up the mushrooms was illegal because the hallucinogens weren't visible, and he was simply drinking in public.

    In a way, though, Ingram wants the chance to argue his “God gave us mushrooms” defense to a jury. Ingram believes so deeply in his use of marijuana and mushrooms that he considers it close to being his religion.

    “I don't do any kind of synthetic drugs — I don't even like pills,” he said. “God gave us marijuana and mushrooms to use. If you have a good, sound mind and body, they can be a very spiritual and uplifting experience.”

    And he's convinced that 12 of his Buncombe County peers will be sympathetic to his cause.

    “I feel if it goes to the jury I'll have a good chance, because I'll have 12 of my peers judging me,” said Ingram, obviously a “glass half full” guy when it comes to optimism. “Unfortunately, they'll kind of have to go against the law to find me innocent. But I want to say there's a higher law.”

    Sure, Ingram may be happily delusional, but you've got to admit he might just be the most optimistic 'shroomer in America.

    By John Boyle
    April 27, 2009

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  1. nick23
    Hell,it's better than the twinkie defence.
  2. Alfa
    I do think Ingram has a solid point. Though I doubt his appearance and the context will do much good.

    In a court where one has to swear upon the bible, God and religion can hardly be considered irrelevant. Personal religious practice has firm foundations in National and International law. Ingram is solely defending his personal use of drugs that are less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes. He's not a dealer.

    The religious effects of magic mushrooms have scientific / clinically been proven by the John Hopkins University. I would certainly think that if Ingram would take effort to come across as someone that cant be disregarded as a loony or a druggie, then he may have an excellent case that affect many lives.

    Ingram should get into contact with the Drug Policy Alliance Network and Norml so their lawyers can assist him with his case.
  3. Nature Boy
    Not in my opinion.

    Although it's nice that people continue to search for legal loopholes in order to use relatively harmless natural substances, playing the God card seems to be missing the point on the grander scale of things. We don't need to come up with excuses like medical marijuana or religious ethnobotanical use. Fact is, these substances should be legal for whatever reason people use them. I don't value one person's spiritual beliefs over another person's recreation. This is why we have separation of church and state.

    Indeed, marijuana does have medical benefits and many religions do use ethnobotanicals in their ceremonies but we can't have certain sets of laws for one pocket of society and another set entirely for the majority. That's why we need to push for universal legalisation rather than specific allowances.
  4. FistyCuffs
    Consuming mushrooms whilst driving, and getting baked before meeting with district attourney... I think he blew it there. He might be in with a chance if he wasn't so silly.

    But he's certainly got a point. I agree wholeheartedly about weed and shrooms coming 'from god'.
  5. Nature Boy
    But not 5-MeO-DMT? Afterall, it's just a couple of twists and tweaks in a laboratory, right? One can argue against the notion that marijuana is some kind of natural substance that anyone should have the right to smoke. Very rarely, if at all, would marijuana grow in the wild the way it's grown under lights using fertilizers and special soils. That's where this argument can be stomped out.
  6. wednesday
    i can't for the life of me understand why somebody would get high before any kind of court type appearance, it really seems like he is asking for trouble there
  7. Scrubbs
    Swim knows many people including himself who would love to tell the courts that mushrooms are a religion because it is true. We need more people to stand up for that when getting arrested for possession of psilocybin or other entheogens. Certainly everybody can argue for the legalization of all plants, I mean it is insane to make nature illegal. These plants were probably here way before our stupid civilization!
  8. SullyGuy
    Seed bearing herbs eh? :p
    And perhaps with a stretch, you could say mushrooms 'move' (upwards that is...)
  9. Hollow Hippie
    Poison hemlock, cyanide, and botulim toxin, are they gifts from God too?
  10. Scrubbs
    I knew someone would bring up toxic plants because that's what my dad used to say all the time. Ok a "gift from god" is a gift sir is something good ok? So god gave us shrooms and marijuana and a bunch of other plants as gifts to enhance or perceptions. The other poison plants maybe are not "gifts" for humans to use since they are deadly.
  11. rizla1
    why yes , the most wonderfull gift of all:laugh:.

    i dont no about gifts from god but phycidelics do very little or any harm and should be legal , with a few exceptions that should be regulated.
  12. Jasim
    I would like to see a follow up to this. I'm assuming the trial is still pending, but I would like to see how it turns out.

    And poisonous plants are just as useful as tools in research. ;)
  13. Valseedian
    they can be gifts to manic depressives, suicidal people and murderers... all of which are acceptable crimes with extenuating circumstances.

    hitler killed himself with cyanide.. (theoretically)... if that's not a gift, I'm not sure what is.

    there is nothing that exists in nature with no positive use... nothing.
  14. Hollow Hippie
    He just as easily killed him self with synthetic toxins, I do not see many people supporting synthetic chemicals now a days as if they were some evil devil spawn of something that is totally benign (which nature is not I am sure of it)
  15. MiMoMo
    Dear Jasim,
    Thank you for steering me to search out more information about this very interesting case. I believe this is an example of the kind of case consequences that sitbcknchill was inquiring about before his departure. So. How about this personal blog summary written by none other than Sir Ingram, himself? Reprinted as discovered, no editing on my part, whatsoever.

    Sunday, December 13, 2009
    "a tale of a trip"
    This time, as in 11:30 pm, last year on this date, I would have been at the The Warren Haynes Christmas Jam. One of my friends got me a ticket and my (new at the time) girlfriend was going to meet me there. The night before I was at the same jam, which is a two night event with Asheville native Warren Haynes and friends benefitting the non-profit Habitat for Humanity. I was back stage and literally rubbed elbows with Warren and passed by the Allman brothers band on the way off the observation stage. The next night I was not as fortunate. I still have that ticket with the un-torn portion. Though I wasn't going to be backstage I was going to be with my (new at the time) lady in a musical environment and hopefully passing through a gateway to another realm. Since I didn't spend the $55.00 on a ticket I decided to spend $50 on some fungi. The hookup seemed perfect because though I very rarely seek mushrooms they tend to find me when the time is right. I parked my car, put one in my lip, and reverently sipped my beer I had put in a coffee cup. Looking at the bag to choose one more perfect shroom for a perfect night and what do I see, blue lights...what [email protected]& I was practically bum rushed, wow that strikes me as an interesting phrase, and promptly searched by the female officer. I told them I was going to the show and to please let me go at least three times. Instead the male officer puts me in the car to search for warrants so he says. I click my automatic lock on my car keys, meanwhile the female officer reachesin my window and unlocks my car to find my mushrooms in the center console. At which point I was put under arrest and taken to jail. That is where I was this time last year in the drunk tank. Luckily I was able to remember my sister's number and she came to bail me out. They wouldn't let me use my cell phone and each time I would call my Mom on their silly pay phone it would drop the call after, "Mom, I'm in jail" There was another inmate ironically arrested for the same thing the same night. He paid a lawyer over $5,000 and his charges will be dropped after a year of being a good boy. I considered all options; both lawyers I spoke with were way out of my price range. The cheapest option is a public defender, now notice I said cheapest because they aren't free. They charge $75 an hour. I tried to explain my case to this fellow and he convinced me that the only way to go was "deferred prosecution" which means basically pleading guilty and apparently being sorry for what you did. You get community service, pay a bunch of fines and are on probation for a year then it goes away. This is what my public defender recommended and this is what we did. On my statement I said. "I had mushrooms in my car." Initially I was approved for deferred prosecution; I had brought $500 to the courtroom that day which is what my lawyer told me to bring. Somehow my request was rejected and the secretary told me why...because I was not sorry enough. My lawyer decided to put me in front of the DA anyway knowing full well how I felt about the situation. The state was not a victim, I was the victim. I had explained to my lawyer that some substances were sacred and though not justified by a government approved religion sanctioned by the musical community at large. Well, lets just say the conversation with the D.A. didn't go as my lawyer had planned. The D.A. comes in and doesn't shake my hand but greets me with "Who the hell are you and why the hell should I help you?" Seriously those are his exact words. What I didn't understand at that time was that lots of my time and money were caught up in the balance of this conversation with the almighty D.A. He literally had the power and he wanted me to respect his authority. I felt like I had thus far acted very appropriately. I shaved my beard, put on a suit said "your honor" which I guess was the wrong address to the D.A. This conversation inevitably turned to marijuana which he calls "dope." Not only did he bring it into the conversation, the arresting officers did, the community service worker did, and my probation surrounded around urination tests for marijuana. Well, I'm an honest guy sometimes to a fault and when the D.A. asked where the mushrooms came from I said "God." I said the same goes for marijuana. This infuriated him. He claimed that all I would have had to do was tell him where they came from and he would have approved my request. I must have missed that episode of Law and Order where you rat on your friends and they let you go. I asked him where he went to church and he wouldn't tell me though he admitted he went every Sunday. I asked him who his pastor was and told him I would like to have a talk with him. There were other verbal battles mainly due to the fact that I admitted to smoking marijuana that morning. He made comments like "I can't believe you drove here, I had a kid on a school bus this morning" and I made comments like "Sir there is no evidence that marijuana smoking causes more accidents than driving sober" He said things like "Bet you were at that Widespread Panic show with all those other dope heads" and I said things like "I am an individual sir, please don't label me and put me into a group." Well, come 4-20 I hit the streets with my afro wig, tin whistle, a marijuana lay, and a front/back poster I had made sure was legal. It was somewhat effective I thought. A one man parade all over town, in front of Vance Monument, in front of "Trips", and of course in front of the court house and police station. I blew that tin whistle like a pied piper for hours all over town. On the front of my poster it said "Mushrooms and Marijuana come from God" and on the back it said "Oppressed Terrorized Minority." I had people beeping, giving me a thumbs up, yelling 4-20! An Asheville-Citizen times photographer decided it might be an interesting story and it was...see my previous blog for a copy. I was in the news, grand old U.S.A. freedom of speech I think. Well, my public defender was irate. He instructed me to not go to the media again, he said it would hurt my case and my best bet was to lay low and wait for new judges to cycle in, perhaps ones that hadn't read the article. What? A biased judge, surely not. That same day, I had marched into the public defenders office with my statement of what happened but somehow this was never ever brought up in court. I had written courtroom poetry too maybe I will post some soon. Only the female officer's statement was used, and only once out of the 30 or so times in 6 months I had to go to court was either officer there. I had a $1000 bail hanging over my head so I had to show up every time and on time, without a hat and with cell phone off (though lawyers can have theirs on). Did you know you can go to jail for 30 days for wearing a hat in court! My public defender was never on my side, he stood me up 4 out of 5 appointments, called me one time and that was by accident. He could not see relevance in a "religious use" or "unequal protection" case even though I am part Native American. He had no problem in asking me to not mention my constitutional rights to the D.A. He asked me to give up my 5th amendment right with the "deferred prosecution." Apparently a concert does not count as a "peaceful assembly," and he obviously had objections to my "freedom of speech". He withdrew from the case for going against his advice. Sunday, the day before my court date and his withdrawal, I posted over 10 copies of my a 5 page essay on mushrooms and marijuana and their relevance to the Bible. I posted them on "Pastor" labeled vehicles during church time, strait to the horses mouth I thought. I saw a mason with a key to the lodge and I gave him a copy he said he would bring it up at the next lodge. One of the assistant D.A's went to the Lutheran Church where I posted the essay on the door with the message "I can not and will not re-cant" The assistant D.A. was reading it in court to himself that following Monday. I guess it wasn't convincing enough for them to drop the case. I will try to post that as a blog entry as well because it is interesting and can not be re-created here. The judge awarded me a court appointed attorney with a respectable name around town. A felony charge is serious do better not to be your own lawyer. She, unfortunately, had very little criminal law experience and was terrified of the case going to trial. She was used to divorces and making $250 an hour instead of just the crummy $75. She just couldn't see us winning and had no faith in any of the above arguments. She explained that unless 12 out of 12 jurors finds you innocent the DA's office is going to try you and try you again until they get a guilty verdict. It's called a mistrial. Publicity had earned me a small folk following but none were there in the courtroom that day and the chances were slim that the "jury of peers" would include any of them. Our best chance was for the judge to rule the evidence inadmissible. According to a very recent U.S. Supreme Court case (see "Gant") a person's vehicle can not be searched for a different crime than committed unless there is a chance the offender could grab a weapon (I was in the back of the car) or confiscate the evidence (in this case drink the rest of the beer). My lawyer argued "Why was the officer looking for beer bottles in the tiny Subaru console? She even showed pictures, but oh, a can could fit in there so the judge says. I can't believe it! Gant was brought up by the D.A., not my lawyer, and the judge just thanked him for being up on the "newest" laws. Why wasn't the judge up on the new laws? Mushrooms admitted, Illegal search and seizure denied...but the illegal search issue is in appeals and my probation is automatically stayed until that is over which could take a year or so. Yippee, back to normal life or so to speak. I ended up pleading guilty so I have a felony, yuck. Can't vote, run for office, own a gun, basically it is even hard for me get a job which I desperately need now that I have a child on the way. Luckily I have a very supportive lady in my life. She has been through this whole ordeal with me and she still loves me. How can my country do this to me? How am I supposed to love my country when it seems like its laws are causing more harm than good. I am not a violent person and have no enemies other than the state. It has been a year, fair and speedy trial yeah right. Most of my constitutional rights were thrown out the window. At least I am at home in my church/house tonight and not behind bars. This process has hogged a ton of my time and energy. It is an enormous drain on me and society. It is truly a shame we citizens are treated this way...mostly for money purposes I presume. Lawyers and "the Stat" are making all kinds of money at the expense of the welfare of its citizens it is terrorizing. Police have invaded my dreams, it has caused me to fear my government. Every time I see a blue light I get tense and uneasy. I feel watched, terrorized because of my way of life. So what? I'm a fungi. I like to play music, have fun with my friends, go to concerts and share a pipe or some mushroom tea occasionally. It doesn't take away from me as a person and I feel very strongly inclined to believe these substances are teachers and when used appropriately connect us to something greater than ourselves...the divine...and no matter what, I have faith in God. I may not understand everything but everything is as it should be.
  16. EyesOfTheWorld

    SWIM went to a court appearance for DUI (bullshit charge) blasted out of his mind on kpins and OCs, and got the charges thrown out:laugh:
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