Monday 6 April, 2020

Public should not decide Rastas use of marijuana

(File Photo)

(File Photo)

President of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF) Paul ‘Ras Simba’ Rock has accused government of delivering a “gut wrenching belly searcher" to the Rastafarian community for maintaining the position that sacramental use of cannabis will be decided by public referendum. 

Ras Simba pointed to a "grave injustice" committed by Minister of Agriculture, Indar Weir for comments made on Down to Brass Tacks, aired on VOB 92.9 FM, where he reportedly said the use of cannabis for sacramental purposes would be left up to the citizens of Barbados to decide. He called on Minister Weir to publicly apologize for the "misguided statement". 

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Ras Simba went so far as to describe government's stance against sacramental and recreational use of cannabis, based on the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to which Barbados is a signatory, as “illegal”. Referencing the United Nations International Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Article 18, Ras Simba noted every person has the right to “manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

He said it is time for the Rastafarian community to challenge government in a court of law so as to have their rights upheld.

“Since the use of cannabis for sacramental use by Rastafari does not threaten public safety, order or health, or morals or the fundamental rights of others, any limitations imposed on Rastafari as it pertains to their sacrament is illegal. As such trying to determine if this fundamental right of Rastafari as guaranteed by the above, should be allowed, by way of public opinion vote, is in itself illegal.

Seeing that the position of the government is clear on this matter, it is necessary that Rastafari take legal action and not only seek the upholding of their religious/spiritual rights, but sue the government for its injustice and non-compliance with this United Nations mandate which I am sure they are a signatory to.”

He also questioned if ordinary Barbadians will in fact be major players in the country’s proposed medicinal cannabis industry saying this notion “needs to be questioned very carefully”.

Last Friday in the House of Parliament, Minister of Agriculture, Indar Weir moved the second reading of the Medicinal Cannabis Bill (2019) aimed at regulating the handling of medicinal cannabis in Barbados. The Minister promised the Rastafarian community would be allotted 60 acres of land for use within the medicinal cannabis industry.Weir stressed the Bill will not focus on decriminalization or recreational use of cannabis but rather medicinal use of the plant.

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