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Indiana Judge Rejects Religious Freedom Defense for Rastafarian’s Pot Charges

Last Tuesday, an Indiana judge rejected a Rastafarian man's legal defense that his felony marijuana possession charges should be reduced because his cannabis use and cultivation are forms of religious expression.

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Barry Donegan
Barry Donegan is a writer, musician, and pro-liberty political activist living in Nashville, TN. Donegan served as Director-at-Large of the Davidson County Republican Party from 2009-2011 and was the Middle Tennessee Regional Coordinator over 30 counties for Ron Paul's 2012 Presidential Campaign. Follow him at facebook.com/barry.donegan and twitter.com/barrydonegan

Last Tuesday, in Indiana, where Governor Mike Pence recently signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, a judge rejected a Rastafarian man’s legal defense that his felony pot possession charges should be reduced because his cannabis use and cultivation are religious rituals. According to Detroit Free Press, 30-year-old Jerome Scott, who is licensed to cultivate medical marijuana in Michigan but was caught with cannabis in Indiana, risks having his next license renewal denied over his felony conviction.

South Bend Tribune notes that St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Jane Woodward Miller sentenced Scott to 18 months probation and said in court, “I understand there are many people who agree with you that marijuana should be legal, but you’re in the wrong state for that. What you knowingly and deliberately did in Indiana is break the law by not only cultivating it, but also distributing it.”

Scott was arrested following a March 19 incident in which he was robbed and shot by unknown suspects who are still at large. Though police who responded to the scene of the crime did not catch the robbers who attacked Scott, they did find evidence of a grow operation at Scott’s residence and arrested him instead.

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“Cultivating my own cannabis is my way of not contributing to the black market and drug dealing tactics. In my natural state, I don’t believe I’m breaking any law. I know I’m not harming anyone or causing any harm to the community,” said Scott at his sentencing, denying accusations that he is a drug dealer.

Scott’s girlfriend, Melanie Schmidt, said, “All of his hard work, all of his studying, his whole life, they’re telling him he can’t do that.” She feels that the fact that the felony conviction could prevent him from continuing to cultivate cannabis for patients in Michigan is unjust.

South Bend Tribune‘s Christian Sheckler wrote, “To followers of the Rastafari faith, which developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, cannabis is a holy herb, and smoking marijuana is considered a sacrament that brings peace, wisdom and a spiritual connection to nature. It’s unclear how many people identify as Rastafari in the South Bend area, as census figures do not include it among other religions.”

In September of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media expose on the government’s mixed messages on medical cannabis. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.

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