U.S. Rastafarian Is Exempt From Probation Pot Testing

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Steve Elliott
Toke of the Town

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 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.
“[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.

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 [PDF].

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