Friday, October 7, 2011

The right to Gods gifts seems clearer if your Rastafarian...USA and Italy and Guam

It's not very widely known. But in a groundbreaking case, at least one American citizen, a licensed Rastafarian minister in Minnesota, has been openly smoking marijuana daily with a judge's approval for the past year and a half, despite the fact that he is on probation.
Jamison Arend
Jamison Arend of Minnesota won a groundbreaking religious exemption to being drug-tested for marijuana during his probation


Jamison Arend was sentenced to five years' probation on March 24, 2010 after an altercation at his home, reports WeedPress.

During sentencing, Judge Judith Tilsen handed down a trail-blazing

exemption to Minnesota's drug testing laws.
Minnesota Judicial Branch
Ramsey County Judge Judith Tilsen: "I'm specifically not ordering that Mr. Arend abstain from the use of marijuana and I'm specifically not authorizing UAs to defendant for marijuana"


"[T]he defense has proven a colorable claim of religious right to ceremonial use of cannibus [sic], otherwise known as marijuana," Judge Tilsen ruled. "Ceremonial use is intermittent use, but because of our chemistry and how we do UAs [urine analyses], it would seem to me that even with limited ceremonial use that a UA would come up dirty on a regular basis.

Minnesota Judicial Branch

Ramsey County Judge Judith Tilsen: "I'm specifically not ordering that Mr. Arend abstain from the use of marijuana and I'm specifically not authorizing UAs to defendant for marijuana"

​"I'm specifically not ordering that Mr. Arend abstain from the use of marijuana and I'm specifically not authorizing UAs to defendant for marijuana," the judge said. "If probation is concerned about use of other illegal substances, probation may then perform UAs for other illegal substances."

"Let me tell you something else, Mr. Arend, I usually order remain law-abiding in all respects," the judge told the defendant at the sentencing. "What I'm ordering for you is that you have no threatening behavior to anyone."

"I'm not going to order you to remain law-abiding because in the State of Minnesota the colorable claim that you have of being a Rastafarian and using marijuana as part of your ceremonies is not actually legal and if I ordered that you remain law-abiding knowing that you do something that is not legal in the State of Minnesota, I think I would be setting you up," the judge said.

"Another nail in the Reefer Madness coffin!" WeedPress commented.

This is the first religious exemption to probation drug testing that I can remember seeing; it represents a crack in the wall, since religious exemptions to the marijuana laws have been historically ineffective. (There are a number of people serving prison sentences today who unsuccessfully claimed an exemption for religious or spiritual use of cannabis.)


You can read the judge's entire ruling by clicking here [http://weedpress.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/scan0001.pdf].
Jamison Arend

Rasta smoker wins Italian case on religious grounds
Source: Rasta smoker wins Italian case on religious grounds, AP, via USAToday.com, July 11, 2008

ROME (AP) — If you’re a Rastafarian in Italy, you might be able to possess more marijuana than the law allows everyone else.

Italy’s highest criminal court has ruled that the fact Rastafarians consider marijuana use a religious sacrament should be taken into account if they are tried on trafficking charges, lawyers in a recent case and news reports said Friday.

Smoking pot in Italy is not a crime, but being caught with amounts considered too large for personal use can bring charges of trafficking.

The Court of Cassation threw out the drug trafficking conviction of a 44-year-old Italian Rastafarian, ruling that the amount he possessed was in line with the heavy use that comes with his religious beliefs.

The court annulled a 16-month jail sentence the defendant was given in 2004, defense lawyer Caterina Calia said.
[...]

Calia said she had not seen the court’s official explanation, deposited in court offices Thursday, for its ruling, so she declined to give details.

But Italian news organizations quoted widely from the court document.

Rastafarians “use marijuana not only as a medicinal … but also as a possible way to obtain the psycho-physical state contemplation aims for during prayer,” Turin daily La Stampa quoted the document as saying. “Belonging to that religion … followers (must) use the sacred grass daily, up to 10 grams (0.35 ounces) a day for person.”

Rastafarians worship Ethiopia’s last emperor, Haile Selassie, who died in 1975, as a god. They preach unity with nature and smoke marijuana as a sacrament.

The Italian Health Ministry described the ruling as “disturbing.”

- Source: Rasta smoker wins Italian case on religious grounds, AP, via USAToday.com, July 11, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog



Marijuana use in Rastafarian worship


Marijuana is regarded as a herb of religious significance. It is used in Rastafari reasoning sessions, which are communal meetings involving meditation.

According to Leonard Barrett, Rastafarians first began using Marijuana in reaction to the treatment of blacks in society. It became a reactionary device to enable freedom from the establishment. (Leonard Barrett, The Rastafarians, The Dreadlocks of Jamaica p. 129)

Marijuana is used by Rastafarians to heighten feelings of community and to produce visions of a religious and calming nature.

Rastafarians are unlikely to refer to the substance as marijuana; they usually describe it as the wisdom weed or the holy herb.

The latter name is used because Rastafarians believe that marijuana use is sacred, following biblical texts justifying its use:

He causeth the grass for the cattle, and herb for the services of man.Psalm 104:14

…thou shalt eat the herb of the field.Genesis 3.18

…eat every herb of the land.Exodus 10:12

Better is a dinner of herb where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.Proverbs 15:17


The use of marijuana is a highly ritualised act, and before it is used a prayer is uttered by all:

Glory be to the father and to the maker of creation. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be World without end: Jah Rastafari: Eternal God Selassie I.

The marijuana is rolled into a cigarette or placed into a chillum pipe. When smoked it is inhaled deeply, then held, as the devotee enters into a trance-like state.
Federal Court Hears Rastafarian Case
(c) Honolulu Star Bulletin, Nov. 6, 2001
Rosemarie Bernardo, rbernardo@starbulletin.com
Please read the above article at the Honolulu Star Bulletin's web site. It is also archived below.

Rastafarians smoke marijuana in a rite as common as communion for Catholics, an attorney of the American Civil Liberties Union said after a first-of-its-kind hearing before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Marijuana is a common necessary sacrament to the Rastafarian religion," said Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Project.

At a hearing in the 9th Circuit courtroom in Honolulu yesterday, ACLU attorneys argued a Guam resident's right to smoke marijuana. The territory of Guam is trying to overturn territorial court rulings dismissing criminal charges against Benny Toves Guerrero.

This is the first case of its kind to be heard by any federal court, Boyd said.

According to Boyd, Guerrero was returning to Guam from Hawaii on Jan. 2, 1991. Upon arrival at the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport, custom officials became suspicious after observing Guerrero carrying a book on Rastafarianism and marijuana. Officials searched his bag and discovered a seven-ounce bag of marijuana. Guerrero, whose Rastafarian name is Ras Iyah Ben Makhana, was arrested and charged with importation of a controlled substance.

Guerrero moved to dismiss his indictment, stating prosecution violated his right to exercise his religion under the Constitution of Guam and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

A lower court agreed. On Sept. 8, 2000, the Supreme Court of Guam ruled the use of marijuana by a Rastafarian for religious purposes is protected under the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution of Guam. The Guam government then appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit.

Guerrero, who is in his mid-40s, has been a follower of Rastafarianism for 19 years, Boyd said.

Rastafarianism originated in Jamaica. Followers of the Rastafarian religion smoke marijuana for spiritual purposes and as a sacrament of their faith.

Guam should be allowed to guarantee individuals the right to use marijuana for religious purposes without fear of federal interference, Boyd said.

"If he loses his case, it will really affect him from practicing his religion ... We're a religious, diverse nation and one of the cornerstones of democracy is tolerance," he said.

At the hearing, ACLU attorney Nelson Tebbe said federal courts have historically recognized the competence of territorial supreme courts to rule on matters of local tradition and culture.

"Rastafarianism is a legitimate religion," he added. "Our client Ras Makhana is a devout adherent to this religion, and the use of marijuana as a sacrament is necessary for the practice of his faith. Guam's high court is best suited to understand and appreciate the unique customs of its people."

"There is a question of whether federal court is going to interfere with the Guam court," Boyd said. "It's time to allow Guam courts to make their own decisions concerning Guam laws."

Boyd said Guam's argument is that its Bill of Rights does not protect Guerrero's religious freedom.

Tricia Ada, who is representing Guam, could not be reached for comment.

Three judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are expected to issue a ruling on the case in three to six months.

May 29, 2002

Federal Court Rules in Rastafarian Case

In an opinion issued Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, some marijuana-using Rastafarians may be protected under a religious-freedom law passed by Congress in 1993.
The case began in 1991 when Benny Guerrero, returning from a trip to Hawaii, was stopped by officials at Guam's international airport. Mr. Guerrero evidently attracted the eyes of authority because he was carrying a book about Rastafarianism and marijuana. A search of Guerrero's luggage turned up five ounces of marijuana and some Cannabis seeds. He was arrested and charged with importation of a controlled substance.

In his defense, Guerrero argued that he was a practicing Rastafarian and that his use of marijuana was religious. His importation of the herb was, he argued, protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that blocks the federal government from unjustifiably infringing on a person's practice of religion.

After litigating the case for more than ten years, the Ninth Circuit ruled on Tuesday that while the Religious Freedom Restoration Act might protect some Rastafarians who possess or smoke marijuana as part of their religious practices, it does not protect the importation of marijuana, even if that marijuana was intended for religious use. According to the Ninth Circuit, while the practice of Rastafarianism sanctions the smoking of marijuana, nowhere does the religion sanction the importation of marijuana.

As Guerrero's lawyer Graham Boyd pointed out in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, the court's ruling was "equivalent to saying wine is a necessary sacrament for some Christians but you have to grow your own grapes."

The ruling also has much in common with the current situation facing people, such as AIDS and Crohn's Disease patients, who find that marijuana alleviates some of their pain and provides other medical benefits such as increasing their appetite. Although eight states now permit citizens to use marijuana for medicinal purposes with the approval of their doctor, the federal government has loudly stated its intention to criminally prosecute anyone who dares to supply a sick person with medical marijuana. Thus, people whose health is already compromised are forced to shovel dirt and labor over a Cannabis garden, or make friends with a marijuana dealer.

According to the latest Household Survey on Drug Abuse, over 16 million Americans used an illegal drug in the last 30 days. The overwhelming majority of these people, just like the overwhelming majority of people who use legal drugs, did so responsibly and without problems. Some of those people may find that their use of an illegal drug occasioned a religious experience, and others may find that use of an illegal drug provided pain relief that they have been unable to achieve by any other means. To the extent that the vast majority of these 16 million Americans used an illegal drug without causing harm to others, our criminal justice system ought to leave them alone and instead focus on protecting us from dangerous criminals.

Instead, the government has just requested over 19 billion dollars of tax-payer money to fight yet another year of the "war on drugs" and it's not about to let religion, medicine, or basic human rights, for that matter, stand in its way.

Lost in the haze of its zero-tolerance prohibition policy, and drunk on its hyperbolic rhetoric about how marijuana leads you through the Devil's gateway, the government continues to flex its weary muscles in an antiquated effort to save as many souls from damnation as possible.

Enough is Enough.

Richard Glen Boire is legal counsel for the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics.

Resources:

Ninth Circuit's Opinion in Guam v. Guerrero

The ACLU's legal briefs and press releases in Guam v. Guerrero

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act






4 comments:

rastamon said...

There is another federal case that is on the books. See US v Valrey

rastamon said...

Considering that this article is partly about me and my religion and what I practice, I think it is necessary to say something here. I, Rasta, do not do most of what you say I do and if you're not like I you shouldn't post things that insinuate that you know what it is I am and what I do. I warn everone against looking up what Rasta are on the internet and then professing things you more than likely do not understand. Thank you for your interest in my exemption, but please refrain from trying to educate people about something you clearly do more understand.

rastamon said...

Pardon me, *do not understand*

minister Belanger said...

Rastamon...Those are news articles marked as such I did not right
..please read before you blame...I am prorastamon!