Europe: Rastafarians Can Smoke Marijuana, Italian Court Rules

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #543)
Politics & Advocacy

The Italian Court of Cassation, the highest criminal court in the land, has thrown out the drug trafficking conviction of a Rastafarian, saying the amount of marijuana he possessed was consistent with the heavy use that comes with his religious beliefs.

Under Italian law, using or possessing small amounts of marijuana is not a crime, but possessing larger amounts can bring a drug trafficking charge. That's what happened to an Italian Rastafarian from Perugia, who was sentenced to 16 months in jail and a $5,000 fine for possession of about 3 1/2 ounces of marijuana.

But the Court of Cassation said the court of first appeal had failed to consider that the man smoked because of his religious beliefs. According to the high court, Rastafarianism allows for smoking up to 10 grams a day. Rastas smoke the herb "with the memory and in the belief that the sacred plant grew on the tomb of King Solomon," the court said. They use it "not only as a medical but also as a meditative herb. And, as such [it is] a possible bearer of the psychophysical state of contemplation and prayer."

The conservative Italian government is not happy. The ruling "shatters the laws which forbid and proscribe penal sanctions for" the use of illegal drugs, an Interior Ministry spokesman said in remarks reported by London's The Independent.

"Today we learn a Rasta is free to go around with drugs. If somebody belonged to a religion which permitted them to eat their children, would they give them the go-ahead, too?" worried right-wing Senator Maurizio Gasparri.

Radical Party Senator Marco Perduca was more concerned about practitioners of Italy's most popular religion. He suggested to ItaliaNews that Italian Catholic pot smokers should find their own saint to worship.

The reaction was also more upbeat at Rototom Sunsplash, Europe's largest reggae festival, which happened to be occurring as the ruling came down. "Finally the principle of religious pluralism is beginning to make headway," Filippo Giunta, president of the festival, said. "This judgment... underlines again the difference between this substance and so-called 'hard' drugs, alcohol included."

The ruling recognizing the spiritual use of marijuana is the first in Europe. Advocates of religious marijuana use have made little headway in the courts in the US, despite devoted efforts, although the Guam Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that a Guamanian Rasta charged with importing marijuana could not be prosecuted because his use was religious.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Eat their children? what a brilliant a senator no less..Kind of makes you wonder what other barbarric ..comparisons/decisions are by made by these kinds of people...where do they come from?

Fri, 07/18/2008 - 12:00pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The question is, should such a ignorant menatal deficient be permitted to collect his Senator salary? Unbebeivable ignorance.

Fri, 07/18/2008 - 4:44pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Italy is lucky to have a member of the Nonviolent Radical Party as a Senator.

Sat, 07/19/2008 - 4:17am Permalink
Malkavian (not verified)

The foundation of the War on Drugs is comprised of irrationality, prejudice and puritanical religion. It's simply based on one thing: belief.

How utterly ironic that it takes yet another Utter Irrationality (religion) to bypass the dominating insanity (the US has its own brand of this as well: the Sante Daimo religion in which the ayahuasca brew is allowed eventhough it contains a mixture of MAOi and DMT (Mono Amine Oxidase inhibitors and Dimethyltryptamine respectively).

When a religion and its followers are treated either worse or better than the remaining population it's discrimination. So I'm thinking there's some emotional drive to ensure that the law codex is full of this prejudicial insanity.

Mon, 07/21/2008 - 9:16am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Lets al become rastafarians.I heard they don't beleave in doctors, but oh well, I guess we could practice the Rastafarian religion much like every other religion and just ignore the part you don't like and enjoy the parts you do. Their music isn't bad eather.

Wed, 07/23/2008 - 12:06am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Jah Live Children Yeah. Jah Jah Live, Children Yeah.
The truth is an offense, but not a sin.
Is a foolish dog
Bark at the flying bird
One sheep must learn,children
To respect the shepherd
Fool say in their heart
Rasta your God is dead
But I and I know,Jah Jah
Dread it shall be Dreaded and Dread
Let Jah arise
Now that the enemies are scattered
Let Jah arise
The enemies,the enemies are scattered

Wed, 07/23/2008 - 5:52pm Permalink

Add new comment

Source URL: