Rasta Jurisprudence – Italian Supreme Court Okays Cannabis Usage By Rastafari

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Rastas can use cannabis, Italian court rules

Rastafarians have always regarded Ethiopia as the promised land, but Italy could rank a close second after its Supreme Court ruled that smoking or possessing cannabis is not a criminal offence but a religious act when the person doing it is a Rastafarian.

Last year, the same court declared that cultivating even a single cannabis plant was a punishable offence. But now Italy’s Court of Cassation has said Rastafarians use marijuana “not only as a medical but also as a meditative herb. And, as such [it is] a possible bearer of the psychophysical state to contemplation and prayer”.

Release, the London-based drugs information service, said that the ruling was a European first.

The case was brought by a man in his forties from Perugia who was sentenced to 16 months in jail plus a €4,000 (£3,000) fine in 2004 for possession of 97g of marijuana. The Supreme Court said the court of first appeal had failed to consider that the man, a Rastafarian, smoked marijuana according to the precepts of his religion, which, the judges said, permits the smoking of 10g per day. Rastafarians smoke the drug, said the court, “with the memory and in the belief that the sacred plant grew on the tomb of King Solomon”.

The government is livid. The judgment “shatters the laws which forbid and proscribe penal sanctions for” the use of illegal drugs, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

Right-wing politicians were scathing. Senator Maurizio Gasparri said: “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?”

But the verdict was received with joy at Rototom Sunsplash, Europe’s biggest festival of reggae music, near Udine, in north-east Italy. “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.”

By Peter Popham in Rome
Saturday, 12 July 2008

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4 thoughts on “Rasta Jurisprudence – Italian Supreme Court Okays Cannabis Usage By Rastafari”

  1. the u.s.a. continually eats its own children,vietnam,iraq,and the gov. of italy does not condemn but supports the cannibalism.

  2. Rastafari Martyr

    Candidate attorney Gareth Prince has launched an attack on the highest court in the country, claiming racist motivation lay behind the decision to reject his appeal to allow Rastafarians to be exempted from the prohibition on cannabis

    Prince, who lost the appeal by one vote, says the Constitutional Court’s ruling shows “Africans are still being looked down upon”. Prince vows a “passive disobedience campaign”, including sit-ins and Rastafarians chaining themselves together, to push for an exemption for Rastafarians on religious principles from the prohibition on cannabis.

    Last week five of the nine judges of the Constitutional Court ruled against Prince, who argued that by not being able to utilise cannabis the constitutional rights of Rastafarians were being ignored. The court ruled that infringing the Rastafarians’ rights to religious freedoms was justified by the state’s duty to enforce the law.

    But heavy criticism of this decision was evident in a third judgement delivered by Judge Albie Sachs, with Judge Yvonne Mokgoro concurring, in which Sachs wrote that the majority decision has subjected the Rastafari community to a choice between their faith and respect for the law. Sachs, the only white signatory to the minority decision, said there was disagreement about how far the law should go to accommodate a minority religion. “The Constitution obliges the state to walk the extra mile,” wrote Sachs.

    “The Constitutional Court has shown it is trying to enforce European values,” Prince said this week. He said the majority decision showed the judges “were trained in the Calvinistic way of thinking,” and called it anti-African. “You can’t judge Rastafarianism by the standards set by Christianity, Judaism or Islam.”

    Rastafarianism has been labelled as Africa’s first religion, with one of the central principles a rejection of the “White Babylon”, which symbolizes Western culture and values. Prince said he still has faith in South Africa’s Constitution but that it is “only a tool”. “One has to blame the fools behind the tool,” for the court’s decision, he said.

    Prince is widely regarded as a martyr of Rastafarian causes in South Africa and has been fighting since 1998 for an exemption for Rastafarians from prohibitions on the drug. He was denied membership of the Law Society of the Cape of Good Hope because of two previous convictions for possession of cannabis and has vowed to continue using the drug for religious purposes. He maintains, however, that cannabis is a side issue and that the case is “primarily about dignity, humanity and respect”.

    (“The Mail&Guardian,” February 1, 2002)

  3. any one can obtain alcohol get hammered drive their cars crash kill ppl and thats ok but if a rasta who chooses to abstain from use of alcohol and smokes ganja in the privacy of their own home who dont drive during religous ceramony are considered evil.but proof shows that even minor drug offenses ie posseion of pot in most states carries a mandatory sentence of whitch there is no good time aloted but yet murderers can recieve both goodtime and early release forever InI praise Jah

  4. how some one could compare someone possesing a plant to eating chilldren i will never know.
    hemp is not a drug it is a PLANT. How can you make something that naturally grows out of the ground illegal. THE STUPIDITY. FIRE BUN. ONE

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