Pot enthusiast claims divine right to sell weed 

click to enlarge A missed court date cost Robert Joseph Simmons a plea deal in a pot bust; he faces up to eight years in prison. - MIKE KOOZMIN/2013 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Mike Koozmin/2013 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • A missed court date cost Robert Joseph Simmons a plea deal in a pot bust; he faces up to eight years in prison.

This Rastafarian insists he’s no “ragamuffin.”

Robert Joseph Simmons, 33, claims he’s not a lazy hippie, or in his words, a “ragamuffin,” but rather a Rastafarian minister whose refusal to abandon his beliefs might land him behind bars for a long time.

Simmons said he’s facing up to eight years in prison over a pot bust because he did not accept a plea agreement with prosecutors last week that would have had him serving just 60 days.

In August 2011, Simmons was approached by an officer in Belmont and searched because he was on parole. He was found with 161 grams of pot, a digital scale, 45 plastic bags and $965 in cash, a prosecutor said. While Simmons said he had a medical marijuana card at the time and was operating a widely advertised delivery service, he has been charged with felony intent to sell because the delivery service was never sanctioned.

Last week, prosecutors offered Simmons a seemingly “kush” deal, but he balked. Simmons — who converted to the Rastafarian religion due to the influence of his reggae-band pals — said accepting the deal would have gone against his principles.

“I don’t think I should have to register as a drug offender for charges that relate to my religion,” Simmons said.

Simmons said he was ordained as a Rastafarian minister online for free. Since then, he has been on a crusade to prove that he doesn’t need a doctor’s recommendation to possess marijuana — and also should be allowed to sell weed — because the plant is a “core tenet” of his religion.

He’s tried the First Amendment argument before. After a 2007 pot bust, according to prosecutors, a judge ruled that Simmons’ claim was dubious at best and sentenced him to prison for a probation violation.

Now he’s looking at even more hard time due to the 2011 bust.

On May 6, Simmons asked a judge to grant him one more day to decide whether to accept the plea agreement. However, Simmons failed to show up for the hearing the following day, claiming he had gone to a San Francisco hospital with an anxiety attack.

The judge rescinded the plea deal, according to Simmons, who said the next stop is a jury trial in June.

“I’m fighting the good fight,” Simmons insisted.

Meanwhile, he said he’s trying to keep afloat his unsanctioned medical marijuana delivery business on the Peninsula, which is advertised on Yelp.

“I’ve been running it as a subsidiary of my church,” Simmons said, adding that he has not reported his earnings to the Internal Revenue Service due to the federal tax exemption for religious organizations.

Simmons also said he has not profited from selling pot. If anything, he said, he has lost money providing for patients.

“A lot of the time I smoke all of my profit,” Simmons said.

If he can avoid prison time, Simmons said he will campaign to be California’s next governor.


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