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Cannabis Bill concern

Gercine Carter

Cannabis Bill concern

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A week before Barbados celebrates its 53rd anniversary of Independence, the House of Assembly yesterday passed legislation allowing Rastafarians to use cannabis as part of their religious sacrament.

But while the Government is proud of the move, founder of the African Heritage Foundation, Paul “Ras Simba” Rock of the Nyabinghi, described the Sacramental Cannabis Bill 2019 as rushed, lacking in understanding of the Rastafari, and likely to make them a target for police and gangsters.

The new legislation will allow Rastafarians to use cannabis in their places of worship, and at meetings convened elsewhere for purposes to worship; to grow a limited quantity of the plant on the premises where worship is conducted and even to have a small quantity of the drug on their person when travelling to those worship events outside of the regular place of worship, once an exempt permit has been issued for that event.

Leading off debate on the Bill, Attorney General Dale Marshall explained the Government’s decision was in response to the pleas of the Rastafarian community who had long been making a strong case for their right to use marijuana sacramentally as part of religious freedom. Their calls were ramped up during the recent public hearings associated with the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill, 2019.

Marshall stated that Rastafarians should not be excluded from the rights enjoyed by people of all other faiths in Barbados and supported his argument by quoting from the Barbados Constitution –“Except in his own consent, no person should be hindered in his freedom of conscience…the said freedom includes freedom of thought and religion.”