Monday 18 November, 2019

Rastas to get approval for cannabis use in Barbados

Members of the Divine Order of the Nyabinghi Theocracy Reign at Government Headquarters.

Members of the Divine Order of the Nyabinghi Theocracy Reign at Government Headquarters.

Pending the passing of legislation, Rastafarians in Barbados will be permitted to use cannabis for sacramental purposes.

The announcement was made during a Sitting in the House of Parliament this week by Attorney General Dale Marshall during the debate on the Medical Cannabis Bill (2019). 

Marshall admitted changes needed to be made to the way government treats religious use of cannabis considering it does not fall into the category of recreational or medicinal. 

He also pointed to the legal precedent based on cases in Antigua and South Africa where the court acknowledged it was an infringement on the constitutional rights of Rastafarians to criminalize them for using cannabis.  

“In the same way that we go where science takes us, we have to go where the law requires… for us to continue to prohibit that, would be to continue to breach their fundamental constitutional rights. And not just rights guaranteed by the Barbados Constitution, but rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

"That covenant says in Article 18 (1) ‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice. And freedom either individually or in community with others and in public or private to manifest his religion, or belief or worship, observance, practice and teaching.’"

He said the Bill is being drafted and should be presented in Parliament in a matter of weeks.

The AG said he is aware that some Barbadians may “call down hell fire and damnation” on the plans proposed by government but they have made a decision based on “principle” and will be moving forward as “it is the right and decent thing to do.”

“I am not a Rastafarian, but I am not a Muslim either. I am not a Hindu. I am not a Buddhist. But yet still I acknowledge that those individuals have the inalienable human right, guaranteed by our constitution and guaranteed by all of the human rights treaties to not only practice their faith, but to have a manifestation of their faith in the way that suits them and their God.”

On Tuesday, members of the Divine Order of the Nyabinghi Theocracy Reign delivered a position paper to Prime Minister Mia Mottley at Government Headquarters, calling for government to pass legislation to address their religious use of cannabis.

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