An Indiana Rastafarian says his conviction on marijuana charges violates his religious freedom.
Jerome Scott was sentenced to 18 months probation for a conviction on felony distribution charges after police found about 150 marijuana plants while investigating a robbery at his home, reported the South Bend Tribune.
The 30-year-old Scott was shot May 19, 2014, when two intruders broke into his apartment and stole $1,700 from him and his girlfriend, 23-year-old Melanie Schmidt.
Officers found the plants, along with drug paraphernalia, that Scott said he distributed for medical and religious purposes.
“Cultivating my own cannabis is my way of not contributing to the black market and drug dealing tactics,” Scott said. “In my natural state, I don’t believe I’m breaking any law. I know I’m not harming anyone or causing any harm to the community.”
He and Schmidt had saved the money that was stolen to move to Michigan and legally grow medical marijuana – which they have since done.
Police believe an acquaintance may have targeted Scott’s home for the robbery, although no suspects have been arrested in the case.
Scott pleaded guilty to one Class D felony count of possession of marijuana, which means his license will not be renewed next year to grow marijuana as a caregiver for approved patients.
Without the license, Scott won’t be allowed to grow pot – which he said is a key aspect of his faith.
A St. Joseph Superior Court judge rejected his request to treat the conviction as a misdemeanor, saying he knowingly broke the law.
“I understand there are many people who agree with you that marijuana should be legal, but you’re in the wrong state for that,” said Judge Jane Woodward Miller. “What you knowingly and deliberately did in Indiana is break the law by not only cultivating it, but also distributing it.”
The judge scolded Scott and Schmidt for the central role marijuana plays in their household, which includes two young children.
“The life you and your partner have created, it appears to totally revolve around cannabis,” she said.
Schmidt was sentenced to 12 months probation.