Freedom of religion is an interesting topic in the United States. So long as you’re a member of a mainstream religion you generally enjoy a decent amount of religious freedom. Those who participate in lesser known religions are seldom as lucky. Take the Rastafarian movement whose members partake in the spiritual use of cannabis. Many Rastas have been arrested for possessing cannabis or drug paraphernalia. These arrests are an affront to religious freedom, which is a statement the Minnesota Court of Appeals agrees with:
The Minnesota Court of Appeals has sided with a 15-year-old Rastafarian, ruling that his right to religious expression trumps his being found guilty in Ramsey County of a drug paraphernalia offense for carrying a glass pipe.
In Monday’s reversal of the District Court on the petty misdemeanor case from September 2012, Court of Appeals Judge Jill Flaskamp Halbrooks wrote that the teenager has a “genuinely held belief in possessing a cannabis pipe” as part of observing his faith.
Therefore, Halbrooks continued, the prosecution had “failed to meet its burden” of showing that it had a “compelling state interest” in enforcing the statute in this case.
“The state improperly … argues that because the pipe may be used for an illegal purpose,” the teen is guilty, Halbrooks wrote.
What makes this case more interesting is that the teen was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. He didn’t have actual cannabis on him, just a pipe. But even if he were in possession of cannabis he should be free from persecution if one is truly free to exercise their religious beliefs. This is an idea that often rubs people the wrong way because they believe religions like the Rastafari movement will enjoy a sudden glut of converts. To that I say this: may the best religion win. If a desire to smoke cannabis is strong enough that people are willing to convert to the Rastafari movement then, perhaps, other religions may want to look into the spiritual use of cannabis.