Holy smoke: Rastafarians toke for a higher power

Father and son argue in Minnesota courts that marijuana is essential to their religion

In Jamison's mind, however, he had convinced the court that smoking weed was part of his religion. And he wasn't content to stop there. Even in court that day, the transcript shows that at several points, he tried to ask a question.

"I wanted to ask, if I can smoke it, then where am I supposed to get it? Can I grow it myself?"

Jordan knocked on his mom's door. Not now, Newstrand replied. She was busy putting his youngest brother to sleep.

Glass Endeavors / Emily Utne
A Rastafarian flag takes up one wall on the second floor of the Arend house
Brian Garrity
A Rastafarian flag takes up one wall on the second floor of the Arend house

Jordan knocked again, then again, and the knocks turned into an argument. As mother and son raised their voices, Jordan's grandfather got home. He told Jordan to leave, and the 15-year-old took off across the family's lawn.

Worried about her son, Newstrand started running after him, shouting for him to stay. When she caught up, she grabbed at his clothes, but Jordan kept squirming away. The fight turned physical, and Jordan's grandfather called the White Bear police.

By the time the cops arrived, Jordan was a few blocks south. The officers scooped him up and brought him home.

Then they patted him down.

In one of Jordan's pants pockets, a cop found a pack of cigarettes. In the other was a pipe. Its stem was blue, and its bowl was painted with the colors of Rastafari — red, gold, and green.

Jordan ended up with three misdemeanor charges: disorderly conduct, drug paraphernalia, and minor possession of tobacco. With his dad, he hired a lawyer, Michael Kemp, and pleaded not guilty to the first two counts.

"Why would you press charges for a pipe?" Jamison remembers thinking. "Now you're giving us this great opportunity."

Jordan was about eight when his dad started exploring Rasta, and as early as third grade, Jamison helped him comb dreadlocks into his dirty-blond hair. Even then, Jordan says, his crown meant the same thing: "It was rebel."

For a few years, the Newstrand-Arend home became a Rastafarian one, with even Newstrand dabbling in the new religion. She remembers how her oldest son responded to the culture: "He loved the vibe, he loved the energy, he loved how the music was making everyone feel."

In 2010, after 18 years together, Newstrand and Jamison split. The next year they began a messy custody battle and Jordan, distressed by the turmoil, began running away. Around his 14th birthday, he had to spend 27 days in a juvenile shelter.

Halfway through the stay — "day 16 or 17," Jordan says — he hit his low point. "I was really, really down and depressed, kind of losing hope," he remembers.

Looking out the window, his eyes fell on a big tree in the shelter's backyard. As he was gazing at it, the wind began to blow, and the tree started moving.

"It looked like a lion roaring, exactly like that, for minutes," Jordan says. "It was kind of like a vision. And it made me not give in." By day 27, Jordan was no longer simply aware of Rasta: He was a true believer.

The morning of December 13, 2012, Jordan and Jamison arrived at the courtroom of Judge Mark Ireland for trial. When Jordan took the stand, Kemp got right to his point: "Do you consider yourself a Rastafarian?" he asked Jordan.

"Yes," Jordan replied.

Why? Kemp asked.

"Because I believe that Haile Selassie was Ras Tafari," Jordan said, "and he opened the seven seals, and Bob Marley was the messenger of that."

On the second day of trial, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Dana Mitchell cross-examined Jordan on his beliefs. She hammered him on whether he had to have his pipe on him at all times, and on where in the Bible, exactly, "it says that you are to possess drug paraphernalia."

"It's not a sincere religious belief," Mitchell argued. "He parrots what he hears, but what he hears is nonsense."

Kemp took a different approach: For his closing argument, he began by reciting Bob Marley lyrics. Not only had Jordan shown a sincere belief, Kemp maintained, but possessing paraphernalia was a much different deal than possessing marijuana itself.

"Jordan is somebody who held these beliefs before he was charged," Kemp told the court. "This isn't a kid caught with paraphernalia who decides he's going to be a Rastafarian. If nothing else, the length of his dreadlocks tells you this has been going on for a while."

Two weeks later, Judge Ireland handed down his decision: guilty. But not, he wrote, because Jordan wasn't Rasta. Ireland found that Rasta met the criteria of a true religion, and that Jordan had shown a sincere belief.

To reach his verdict, Ireland seized on the prosecution's distinction: that Rastafari didn't require Jordan to have his pipe on him all the time, including that night at his mother's.

The Arends didn't have time to be disappointed. Instead, they started working on their appeal.

"They are learning that we will take even petty misdemeanors all the way, as high as we need to," Jamison says of the courts. "This isn't fun for us. We don't want to do this. But unfortunately, this is survival."

On the crisp morning of July 23, 2013, Jordan and Jamison Arend climbed the stone steps of the Minnesota Judicial Center to the second floor. They paused outside the courtroom's thick wooden doors and took a seat on hallway benches.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
33 comments
TheConservativeJerk
TheConservativeJerk topcommenter

I grew up with JamI and I have known Jordan all his life.  Jami lived with me while he was recovering from his near death experience in 2002, relating to his asthma.    It is what it is, Jami is true to himself and his religious beliefs.  We occasionally go back and forth on religious differences of opinion.  But it is as I say, his beliefs are not phony or fabricated for legal positioning of this or any case.  

Know this, Jill, the Ex, ya I also know her.   I know who she is, or was, and how she raised her kids.  For her to come out and say what she was quoted to say in this story is mind boggling.   "potheads" she calls her own kids.   Jill, you were the stay at home mom that smoked as much or more than Jami.   Woman, if that is anyone's fault, it's yours.  Why wouldn't you love your kids for who they have become?  You were a major player and influence in their becoming.  

@digitalprotocolyou should respect the religious freedoms provided in the first amendment, as it also provides you the ability to chime in on which you don't believe and apparently know.  Without those basic rights, someone might just have the right to cut your tongue from a mouth for beliefs in "man made climate change," or parade your head around as a gift to mother earth.   Freedom was the #1 reason people originally founded this land.  (The wave of religious persecution across Europe)   Example: King Henry VIII  

Even if you choose not to believe, religion is useful to keep civility in societies.  Could you imagine what the world would look like if there was no fear of the life one leads and how that reflects upon them in death?  

mohanlon3
mohanlon3

The whole point of freedom of religion means that nobody else gets to decide the validity of your beliefs, or LEGISLATE them.  I was given wine as a child in a holy sacrament in the RCC.  That's giving a drug to a child and happens millions of times a week all over the country.  That drug is dangerous and regulated for good reason, but I can have it as part of a religious sacrament.  Many non-catholics see the RCC as a cult, just ask Martin Luther.  The farce here is that a simple weed that is far less harmful than wine is illegal at all.  These folks may be off base compared to someone raised in the Rasta faith in Jamaican culture, likewise my American version of being a catholic is very different from that of an Italian native.  I no longer practice Catholicism, it isn't a belief for me.  I fail to see any difference from my own experience and that of the folks detailed here.  They should have the right to their practices no matter how absurd they may seem to an outsider.  Much respect to the Rastas, they are the only folks who don't overcharge for their weed.

spiritleaf
spiritleaf

Some of the expert commenters in here might want to look a little closer before speaking.

Do you put "religion" in quotes like a joke when referring to your own or that of your family?  Very disrespectful.

Immaturity?  Try debating religion with Rev. Arend and see just how immature he is.  Go ahead... make his day.

Narcotize?  When did Cannabis become a narcotic?

Smirk?  You judge a man by his lack of vanity in not saying cheese?  Are you for real?

Embarrassed?  Jordan stood his ground before Babylon and held to his faith in the face of persecution itself... and won.  In the photo above he is standing proudly in front of a RastafarI flag of his own free will along side his Father, speaking to a reporter about his faith.  He is as far from embarrassed as one can get.

Allowing a child to do any drug is unconscionable?  First, you're unaware of RastafarI passage into adulthood which is not defined by Babylon.  And if Babylon had it's way with the man he'd no doubt be on several prescribed, mind-bending, actual drugs.  His family prefers a harmless plant in alignment with the law of JAH.

Dan Black observed the facts before commenting so he'd have something intelligent to say.  Thank you Dan.

Perhaps if anyone cares to ASK some kind, thoughtful, serious questions... those with knowledge might answer and help you overstand.

peter_hillock
peter_hillock

I'm a liberal and in favor of legalizing cannabis-- but if anything could turn me into a Republican prohibitionist, it would be the spectacle of this clown with no sense of boundaries or responsibility using "religion" to hide from the consequences of his immaturity, including encouraging an adolescent to narcotize himself. This reads like a character study by Jonathan Franzen, letting the characters' own words and actions show what a sad mental world they live in. Even the photos: who smirks like that but someone who thinks he's fooling his audience? At least his son still has the decency to look embarrassed.

Angelic93152551
Angelic93152551

<!-- ♣♣ ♣♣ ♣♣til I saw the bank draft four $4519, I didn't believe ...that...my brother was like they say truly making money part-time at their laptop.. there uncle haz done this for only about eighteen months and a short time ago repaid the debts on their house and bourt Bugatti Veyron. this is where I went,........Buzz55.ℂℴm…..♣♣...-->

thumbsopposed
thumbsopposed

I want to hear more from the anonymous Jamaican immigrant who calls this guy out for being full of it. 

sosmpls
sosmpls

Allowing a child to do any drug is unconscionable. Once you are an adult, and can afford your own weed, if you can still lead a productive life, by all means puff away. IMEO

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

just an observation...  how does someone who gets high all the time believe in god. that is so counter intuitive if you smoke weed. it allows you to see through the facade and realize the shams


shim sham

Meredith Friesz
Meredith Friesz

I used to know this guy too, when he was a golfer. He is sincere. Hey Jamie!

dinnieloius
dinnieloius

i was amused by the writer's verbiage throughout the article.."bluntly" "hashed" lol

Dan Black
Dan Black

You people are all ignorant. I know this guy... he knows more about the Bible than any Christian I've ever met, including priests/pastors. He takes his religion very seriously.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

anybody who has any religious affiliation is a fkn idiot 

anybody who censors my free speech is a fkn idiot

for all the shit CP writes, my sole comment bashing religion of any kind is redacted!

waht a fkn joke...just like this family of losers


fuck off and die

Edward Bertsch
Edward Bertsch

Haile Selassie is God? Yeah. Not so much. Rastafarianism is more than just smoking Jah herb. But not for these two, I'm sure.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

religion is a joke- this article is an expirement in creative writing i.e. its SHIT

Kathy Drews
Kathy Drews

this article lost me when he went off on his sisters boyfriend and workers installing egress windows in HER basement. Lame excuses and convoluted beliefs just to smoke weed.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@spiritleaf you are clearly a sympathizer of this fool. 

religion is stupid and ought to be ridiculed. 

shatter, wax and what not have narcotic effects as do many indica strains


this shit is pathetic and shame on you for endorsing the laws of JAH - some made up dicknosed diety - GTFO 


we judge for far less, but this guy is dumb

thumbsopposed
thumbsopposed

@Dan Black If the biblical interpretation he offers in the other article on the City Pages blog this week is any indication, he is not at all knowledgeable about biblical scholarship.  Everything he says in that article is absolute nonsense.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@Dan Black religion is not serious, its a joke...thats the point of ridicule

truckmeyer
truckmeyer

@digitalprotocol Yes, yes.  All good points, sir.  

Especially "
fuck off and die"  Stunning eloquence. You don't even allow punctuation to slow you down.

You really should be making policy at some high level for the good of society.  

thumbsopposed
thumbsopposed

@Connor McDanzz Indeed.  Can you imagine a Jamaican person actually being able to use the length of his dreadlocks as a defense in court?  There is no way in hell a person of color would be taken seriously on that one.  This whole article is basically whiteprivilege.txt



allyourbasearebelong
allyourbasearebelong

@Kathy Drews Yeah, what was the problem there?  Dude, you're getting a new window, that's pretty cool and stuff.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@Kathy Drews that was the dopest part...the workers installing windows and invading his space

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@truckmeyer if you only knew who i was or how i would yield power.


lets talk nuts and bolts - can this queer kid even throw a fkn ball?

how does having your kid get high with you benifit him?

why are you defending this meaningless bullshit


digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@truckmeyer ya, i wasn't reffering to anything specific...just stating that they are pathetic losers


poser ass posers

jaywmck
jaywmck

@thumbsopposed I know a ton of black rasta elders that council white rastas. I also know many white rastas who organize SERIOUSLY needed fund for a Rasta Elders in Jamaica. Rastafari is global. and Rastafari in Jamaica are supportive of that.  If you'd like to donate to Rasta elders and help a global movement achieve its goal, then please do so at http://wordsoundpowercollective.blogspot.com/

 
Minnesota Concert Tickets
Loading...