Man Sold Heroin To 'The Sick, Lost, Blind' For Religious Purposes

By Victoria Kim 05/10/17

The dealer created a "faith-based system" to distribute heroin to consenting adults to help them detox.

black and white image of a hand holding a bag of narcotics.

Here’s a new one… A St. Louis man who tried to overturn his drug conviction by claiming he sold heroin on religious grounds was again denied by a federal judge who didn’t buy his argument. 

Timothy Anderson, 40, had previously argued that as “a student of Esoteric and Mysticism studies” he would distribute heroin to “the sick, lost, blind, lame, deaf and dead members of God’s Kingdom” through a non-profit group he had created.

Before he was convicted last year of charges involving a conspiracy to distribute large quantities of heroin in the St. Louis area, Anderson had argued that under his “faith-based system,” he took “consenting adults only” and provided detox services using heroin as a “method of bringing the individual to a drug-free state,” according to The Washington Post.

Anderson said he himself did not “formally ascribe to any organized religion” but that his religious "beliefs derive from his transcendental union with the divine.” He tried getting his case thrown out, claiming that federal prosecutors had violated his right of religious freedom—but ultimately he was convicted by a jury of conspiracy and distribution, and sentenced to 27 years in prison.

The judge ruled that the government had a “proper and compelling interest in the regulation of heroin,” and that outlawing heroin was the “least restrictive means” of achieving that interest.

Anderson stuck by his argument and appealed his conviction, but in April his motion was (again) denied by a federal appeals court.

Under 1993’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, certain religious groups are able to use ayahuasca and peyote—both prohibited substances in the United States.

The church of the “Union of the Plants,” or União do Vegetal (UDV), which seeks to promote peace and to "work for the evolution of the human being in the sense of his or her spiritual development," sued the U.S. government after federal agents seized gallons of the hoasca tea (ayahuasca) from the church in the late ’90s. 

The UDV church considers the hoasca tea, which contains the illegal hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a sacred means of communicating with God. The case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the UDV church’s right to use ayahuasca as a religious practice.

The Native American Church is also allowed the use of peyote under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978. The cactus, native to the southwest and Mexico, is an entheogen which has been used in indigenous American cultures for its spiritual and medicinal properties for thousands of years. The church also uses peyote as a sacred and holy sacrament for communicating with the Great Spirit.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr