Tuesday 25 February, 2020

Government passes ganja legislation for Rastafarians, conditions apply

(File Photo)

(File Photo)

Government has officially passed legislation to allow the local Rastafarian community to use cannabis, however, those seeking to take advantage of the new Act will have to satisfy a number of provisions first. 

The Sacramental Cannabis Act 2019 was approved during a sitting in the House of Parliament on Friday with 15 clauses outlining how Rastas are to gain access to, use and handle the plant.

The AG told the House the aim was to keep the Bill as simple as possible, recognizing that too many restrictions would be to the detriment of those in the faith but at the same time give these one certain freedoms. 

“What we have tried to do is give ... the Rastafarian faith, the protection of the law so that for the purposes of the practice of their faith in their churches, when they are in possession and using cannabis then the provisions of the drug abuse legislation do not apply.”

He explained the first step for Rastas to be allowed sacramental cannabis use, is for the leader of a Rastafarian congregation to apply for a permit. 

“I know it galls some Rastafarians that they would have to apply for something but I still need to protect them from the harshness of our Drug Abuse Act. We are not asking for a list of your membership but we do ask that you give us information that allows us to establish at least that you are a group. So we say, in the form, give us at least five names of people who are also in your group.”

The AG also outlined other clauses in the Act which include how Rastas will be allowed to cultivate the plant and use it at religious events.

“We are permitting each congregation to grow quantities sufficient for their use. In the precincts of your church you are going to be allowed to grow cannabis for your use inside the church.”

The legislation stipulates that the area where the cannabis is grown must be fenced and must not be within 600 meters of any school. In addition, what is grown can only be used within the place of worship and is not to be used for commercial purposes.

“You must screen it and you must protect it. [Cannabis] … is only for use in the context of worship … it cannot be sold. If you sell it, you commit a criminal offence.”

For religious events held outside the designated place of worship, the AG said persons will be allowed to travel while in possession of cannabis with up to 12 grams. 

“In the event that there is a religious activity being held at a place other than the church, Rastas will be required to apply for a permit of exemption.”

Marshall acknowledged the legislation was not perfect but stressed government wants to ensure that Rastas are free to practice their faith without excessive legal intervention.

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