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Why Is the Rastafarian Defense Not Effective?

Oct. 9, 2019

The Rastafarian religion is a recognized religious organization. Generally, religious exemptions and defenses stand up in court because of the constitutional right to freedom of religion. The government cannot impose on this right, and Florida courts typically follow this precedent. However, the courts have a history of not being sympathetic towards the Rastafarian defense in drug-related cases, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Rastafarian defense, simply put, is when someone uses the Rastafarian religion and its beliefs as a defense against marijuana charges. This religion looks at marijuana as a healing herb that has great spiritual significance. They use it in ceremonies and for regular religious use.

Small charges of possession may be easy to dismiss using this defense, but an outright violation of the law will not. For example, growing marijuana when it is against the law to do so is not something that judges will look favorably upon even if you say it is for religious use. Similarly, giving marijuana to others will often bring a distribution charge that a judge will not write off because you are a Rastafarian, even if you are giving it as part of a religious ceremony or process.

There is a fine line between the freedom of religion and the law. Generally, religious beliefs are a fine defense if what you do does not impact others. For example, a religion that believes in human sacrifice does not give its followers the right to murder people. Sometimes the law comes above your freedoms for the overall good of society. This information is for education and is not legal advice.