Pennington County man says he shouldn't be charged for drug poss - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Pennington County man says he shouldn't be charged for drug possession due to religious reasons

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KOTA -- A west river man says marijuana is a sacramental substance and its use is a religious act. But now he is being charged with possession of marijuana.

Zephaniah Thompson is a Christian Naturalist.

"I believe that everything that God put upon this earth that is seeded and fertile is here for our use and our purposes," said Thompson.

Thompson was recently charged with possession of marijuana and he says he shouldn't be due to his religious beliefs.

"I believe this law is impeding my ability to exercise my religion and worship god via my mode of worship," said Thompson.

"Freedom of religion isn't an automatic get out of jail free card in a criminal case, because once you start down that path, where does it stop?" said Patrick Grode, a Pennington County Deputy State's Attorney.

According to these court documents and Thompson's lawyer, cases like this one in are uncommon in South Dakota.

"There have only been two my knowledge two cases in the history of South Dakota litigation where there was a free exercise challenge to law of applicability. What that means is a law that applies to everybody, somebody saying because of my religion that law doesn't apply to me," said David Patton, Thompson's attorney.

Patton says for those people, both cases were not successful. Thompson says he wants people to learn from his situation.

"My hopes are when this comes to an end there will be enough like minded people, with a solidarity of like minded people that are on the list with their voting districts that are willing to get out to the polls and change an illegal law," said Thompson.

And Patton wants to be clear.

"This is not to be confused about the legalization of marijuana, this is not to be confused with medical marijuana. This is a free exercise of religion case plain and simple," said Patton.

After briefings and hearings, Patton says they will make a decision about whether a trial is necessary.

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