Island pot grower may use 'Rasta' defense

"The devil didn't make Michael Waters do it. Maybe God did.The 44-year-old Coupeville man may use the defense that marijuana is an integral and constitutionally protected part of his Rastafarian religion in a case filed against him in Island County Superior Court.But for now, police are looking for the budding Rastafarian, who has a $10,000 bench warrant on his head.Investigators with the Island County Sheriff's Office served a search warrant on Waters' Crockett Lake Drive home back in December 1998 after his landlord reported him to police.Detective Robert Clark wrote in court papers that investigators found a marijuana grow operation in Waters' master bedroom. Walls covered in mylar and a 1,000-watt halide grow light created tropical conditions for 107 live marijuana plants. There were also bundles of pot leaves and stems around the house.Religion or not, that's a whole lot of pot.Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill issued a $10,000 bench warrant on Waters after he didn't show for a court hearing Dec. 1. His trial was set for Dec. 12, but it will likely be put off. Waters could face prison time. He was charged with the manufacture of a controlled substance Dec. 10, 1999, which may mean up to a year and four months imprisonment.Edward DeBray, Waters' former attorney, wrote in his omnibus papers that Waters will assert that his cultivation of marijuana for his own use is constitutionally protected as it is integral to the Rastafarian religion of which he is a member.DeBray also wrote that the defense will rely on a list of texts to back up the defense. They include the Kebra Nagast, which is the centuries-old Rastafarian bible; From Babylon to Rastafari; and Catch a Fire: The life of Bob Marley.Marley, a Jamaican reggae musician who died in 1981, was perhaps the best-known Rastafarian in the world. He was also known for smoking jumbo-sized marijuana joints.Webster's New World Dictionary defines Rastafarian as a member of a Jamaican religious sect which holds that Haile Selassie was divine and a savior, that Ethiopia is Eden, and that blacks will eventually be repatriated to Africa.Waters' current attorney, Craig Platt, did not return phone calls and Waters was nowhere to be found.Waters' criminal history doesn't seem to include any drug crimes, but he's been convicted of second-degree assault, attempted robbery, burglary and theft.----------You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at or call 675-6611. "

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