State police seize 167 marijuana plants at alleged illegal Carson grow-op

Property owner claimed exemption through "Native American church"

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 9/3/19

A 59-year-old Carson woman is facing felony drug charges after New Mexico State Police said they found a sizeable marijuana grow operation, psychadelic mushrooms and peyote at her property on the …

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State police seize 167 marijuana plants at alleged illegal Carson grow-op

Property owner claimed exemption through "Native American church"

Posted

A 59-year-old Carson woman is facing felony drug charges after New Mexico State Police said they found an illegal marijuana grow operation, psychadelic mushrooms, peyote and drug paraphernalia at her property on the mesa west of Taos.

Cynthia Fugman, who owns the Carson property with her husband, appeared before Taos Magistrate Court Judge Ernest Ortega on Aug. 30 to be arraigned on three fourth-degree felonies: distribution of marijuana or synthenic canabinoids and two counts of possession of a controlled substance. She was also arraigned for possession of drug paraphernalia, a petty misdemeanor.

Officer Andrea Medina searched Fugman's property last week with a Taos District Court warrant in hand. In a criminal complaint filed with the case, Medina said she found sunflowers and 167 marijuana plants in a "makeshift greenouse," where Fugman said she was growing the plants for personal use.

Inside Fugman's home, Medina said she discovered dried marijuana in jars and bags labeled with street names of various strains of the drug, which remains classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance by the Drug Enforcement Adminstration. Nearby, Medina found different types of mushrooms, which Fugman said she had obtained from a local farmer's market, but which Medina believed would test positive for psilocybin, a hallucinogenic substance. She also found peyote, a desert cactus native to the Southwest containing the chemical mescaline, which is also a hallucinogen. Both are also classified under Schedule I by the DEA. The officer also found syringes filled with a "black in color substance," which Fugman claimed to be olive oil, but Officer Medina surmised to be some type of cannabis derivative.

"Due to the amount of marijuana ... it appears that the marijuana was not just used for personal use," Medina wrote in the complaint.

Fugman claimed she had a legal exemption for possessing the drugs found at her home. She showed Officer Medina a membership card to the "Oklevueha Native American Church," which according to its website, denies government authority to "legislate what earth based substance ... a Oklevueha Native American Church member chooses as their sacrament." The website also criticizes widespread media coverage of court cases that have questioned the church's legal ability to provide members with an exemption to laws governing controlled substances.

Oklevueha is mentioned in a March 5 Rolling Stone article, titled "Are Weed Churches Legitimate Houses of Worship, or Just Another Way Around Marijuana Law?" The author of the article, Amanda Chicago Lewis, described Oklevueha as "a controversial, multi-state organization" that has won the legal right to perform peyote ceremonies, "but hasn't been able to budge the courts on pot."

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