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Religious freedom defense didn’t help a Missouri heroin dealer.

Timothy Anderson, a heroin dealer from St. Louis, Missouri, claimed he should be permitted to sell the opioid. His argument was that if he was not allowed to do so, his criminal prosecution will violate the 1993-passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This law prohibits the United States Government from needlessly burdening an individual's religious exercise.

Anderson did not deny any of the drug related charges brought against him. He had no intention to stop selling drugs either. He put forward the argument that he sold heroin as a student of mysticism and the esoteric. Anderson claimed he had made a religious and completely non-profit group so he could distribute heroin to “the sick, lost, blind, lame, deaf and dead members of God’s Kingdom.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals of the Eighth Circuit Court rejected Anderson’s appeal. Judge Gruender said, “We note that a reasonable observer may legitimately question how plausible it is that Anderson exercised a sincerely held religious belief by distributing heroin.”

Anderson's arguments could hold water. It was previously ruled by the Supreme Court, per the religious freedom act; ayahuasca, a Schedule 1 drug of the narcotics pyramid, can be imported by a New Mexico sect of a Brazilian religion. This drug contains dimethyltryptamine, a hallucinogen. A New Mexico sect used this extracted compound as an ingredient of sacramental tea. The U.S. Government has also given its permission to Native Americans for the peyote drug. Both ayahuasca and peyote are schedule 1 drugs. It is long believed to be in the top of narcotics pyramid.

Before the case came to Gruender's court, a St. Louis Federal Judge, District Judge Rodney W. Sippel did not hold any hearing regarding this motion. He said that the U.S. Government “has a proper and compelling interest in the regulation of heroin.” The judge added that heroin prohibition can be considered as “least restrictive means” when it comes to achieving that particular interest. He denied the motion applied by Anderson. The heroin dealer was then convicted by the jury, for distribution and conspiracy. Sippel subsequently sentenced him to a total of 26 years in prison.

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