Thursday 14 November, 2019

Rastas to bring cannabis case against government

The government of Barbados may soon have a court case on their hands if legislation is not put in place to legalize cannabis use for sacramental purposes.

Government is moving forward with the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill (2019), which would allow for persons or entities who possess a license to use the plant for medical reasons. There are currently no provisions, under this proposed legislation, for cannabis to be used for other reasons.

Government has said that a public referendum would decide if cannabis would be legalized for recreational use. 

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President of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF), Paul ‘Ras Simba’ Rock said this stance by government is a violation of the rights of Rastafarians in Barbados.  

He said, with the support of the local Rastafari community, he intends to challenge government’s refusal to change cannabis laws in court. The case will be set on the premise that all citizens have religious rights, as is recognized under the United Nations International Standards, and government should recognize that cannabis use is a right of Rastafari.

“You cannot tell me that my sacrament and the essence of my spirituality, you want to determine by public vote. When within our constitution and within the international constitution- it is my human right. It is a fundamental right,” Ras Simba said while speaking on the Debrief TV Show’ recently.

Drawing from comments made by the Attorney General, Dale Marshall at the Joint Select Committee last Wednesday, Ras Simba said he believes Rastafari can bring a strong case against government.

“The AG [Attorney General] got up at the last meeting and said he was aware that there are legal grounds [for religious use] based on our constitution and on international constitutions and treaties - this is a lost case for them.”

He went onto accuse the AG of making “insulting” comments towards the community by saying there is no difference between cannabis use for recreational purposes and sacramental purposes. 

Ras Simba said he has already sought legal advice on how to proceed, but no official action has been taken as yet, as they “want to give government the chance to do the right thing”.

It is time for all cannabis users to put pressure on government to change the laws, he added.

“If every cannabis user- whether it is smoker, whether they use oil, whether they eat it or drink it in tea- was to get up and say ‘present’ on cannabis morning, the government would shake. If when next they meet at Parliament to discuss this Bill, every cannabis user was to come out in Heroes Square and just stand up… the government would have to take them serious.”

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