The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that a 15-year-old Rastafarian boy has the religious freedom right under Minnesota Law to carry a pot pipe at all times as part of his religious practice and a reminder of his faith.
The teen testified that he carries his pipe with him as a reminder of his faith and so that he can “perform what needs to be performed, which is smoking.” He stated that the colors that appear on his pipe -- red, yellow, and green -- have religious significance: “[r]ed for the blood [of] the martyrs; yellow for the sun that grows the greens, the sacred herb; the purity of nature.” And he testified that even when he is not actively practicing his religion, “I do remind myself of it all the time.”
The teen's testimony was supported by K.H., a Rastafarian with a background in religious studies. K.H. testified that Rastafarians use the pipe -- which he also called a chalice -- to smoke during “reasoning circles.” He testified that the cannabis plant is “something that we should use throughout our entire day…. [T]here is a large variety of uses, but definitely the use of it in a pipe in a sacramental setting is an essential component of that usage.”
According to K.H., there are no set times for reasoning circles or other gatherings, but the “religious tradition, this chalice or this pipe is something that can be self-administered,” and that “everyone is deemed to be able to instigate a gathering.” Here, there is no evidence that the teen's conduct -- possession of a cannabis pipe -- was based on anything other than his sincere belief in the tenets of his religion.
Michael Kemp, the boy’s attorney, said he won a reversal because he successfully argued that the state’s enforcement of the drug paraphernalia in this case “was a burden on [the teen’s] religion.”
“The fatal flaw in the state’s argument,” Kemp continued, “was to rely on arguing the state’s interests in enforcement of controlled substances laws and ending their argument there.”
This is a monumental ruling, as marijuana is once again upheld as part of a religious rite that otherwise stands apart from the strictures of the Controlled Substances Act pertaining to Marijuana’s Schedule I status.