Q: As a citizen of the United States of America and a firm believer in the rastafari movement, do you believe that the persecution and arrest of those in possession of cannabis violates the first amendment. (The first amendment being, “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”)
A: Yes and No! Here’s why…
We know that cannabis use is a Rastafarian principle, but Cannabis use in the United States is also illegal. So, even though the law promises not prohibit a religion’s free practice, it assumes that such free practices are legal.
Let’s look at another example. Would it be okay for a religion to conduct human sacrifice as one of its free practices? No, because murder is illegal? Would the High court uphold such practices? No because it is illegal…nor would the public condone it.
But they are not the same, you may say! One is murder and the other is simply smoking cannabis. True, but they are both illegal practices.
Where there is room for mis-interpretation of the law, the High courts makes the final decision…and in doing so, they have to consider the consequences of ruling in favor of illegal religious practices.
It could cause confusion…and set off a precedent for the occurrence of other illegal practices in the name of religion. They cannot afford to run that risk.
So based upon that, they are going to rule in the favor of legality every time. So it is a tough call.
So, does persecuting the Rastafarians violate their first amendment rights?
Yes, in that it is prohibiting a religious practice…and no in that the religious practice is illegal.
To solve the problem, the courts will need to amend the amendment to say specifically what free religious practices are allowed.
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