Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

New Twist in Rastafarian's Religious Pot Case: Where Is He?

Dude, where's my defendant?

A Rastafarian pot enthusiast has pulled the "religion" card in his defense. But when his case came up in court this week, he was nowhere to be found.

Robert Joseph Simmons, 33, believes he doesn't need to worry about a thing -- not because every little thing is gonna be alright, but because he claims marijuana is a "core tenet" of his religion. Simmons appears to take his religious practice very seriously, because he was busted with more than two and half pounds of pot and 13 pills of hydromorphine, The San Francisco Examiner reports.

But where is Simmons now? And is it possible to legally smoke Mary Jane in the name of religion?

Making a Case for Religious Pot Use

The federal Controlled Substances Act allows the religious use of peyote, but it doesn't carve out a spot for religious marijuana. Even so, anyone who manufactures or distributes peyote to the Native American Church has to obtain registration annually and to comply with all other requirements of law.

In Bob Marley Simmons' case, he decided that he didn't need any kind of government approval -- a medical marijuana card or otherwise -- to possess the marijuana, The Examiner reports.

Last year, the Ninth Circuit, which includes our Rastafarian's Golden State, heard a lawsuit that seeks permission to smoke marijuana for religious purposes. In its lawsuit, The Oklevueha Native American Church of Hawaii sought a declaratory judgment affirming the legality of its members' religious marijuana use. But there's no clear answer yet, as the case was sent back to the lower court to determine the church members' constitutional and statutory entitlement to use marijuana for religious purposes.

This issue has also come up in Colorado, where a self-proclaimed "botanical messiah" didn't have much luck either. The 25-year-old man argued that cannabis was similar to the breaking of bread and drinking of wine in Catholic Holy Communion. The judge ruled the man's beliefs didn't rise to the level of a religion and rejected his marijuana use as a holy sacrament.

Rastafarian On the Run?

Back to Rastafarian Robert Simmons' case, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest after he failed to show up for a court hearing on the drug charges, reports The Examiner.

Even Simmons' attorney has had difficulty reaching him. His lawyer went so far as to ask The Examiner to include a message that he wants Simmons to call him.

We'll just have to wait and see how the Rastafarian Robert Simmons' case turns out. Meantime, if you see a Rasta on the run, you may want to send a smoke signal.

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