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Marijuana is part of Ogdensburg man’s spirituality, he tells judge

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CANTON — A positive drug test for THC on Wednesday in St. Lawrence County Court led to an Ogdensburg man claiming smoking marijuana is a part of his religion.

Ibrahim M. Abdulghani, 41, of 315 Belmont Courts, pleaded not guilty to possession or transportation of unstamped cigarettes, a class E felony.

Mr. Abdulghani was the last of three people arrested for allegedly being in possession of 10,080 individual, untaxed cigarettes.

Mr. Abdulghani was at the residence of Robert D., 32, and Heather S. Leeson, 31, of 443 Belmont Courts, when the three were arrested during the execution of a search warrant Feb. 11 at that address.

Before releasing Mr. Abdulghani, St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards told him that he would have to be tested for drugs by probation officials. The defendant responded that he would test positive for marijuana as he is a Rastafarian and smoking marijuana is a part of his spirituality.

“Because of my culture, it will leave me in bad standing with the Lord,” Mr. Abdulghani told Judge Richards when he was informed that he would not be allowed to smoke marijuana under probation supervision. “It’s not breaking the law, it is a religious sacrament.”

He subsequently did test positive for THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.

When Mr. Abdulghani returned to court, Judge Richards warned him that if he didn’t want to go to jail, he would abide by the rules of court and the laws of the state.

“It is illegal, religion or not, to smoke marijuana,” Judge Richards said. “So not only are you going against a court order, you are breaking the law, and I can’t tolerate that.”

Mr. Abdulghani was released under probation supervision; however, Judge Richards further reminded him that if he refused to submit to drug tests administered by the probation department it would count as a positive drug test and he would find himself back in court, where “we won’t be talking about released under probation supervision.”

Leaving the courtroom, Mr. Abdulghani continually repeated, “God is no drug,” shaking his head.

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