President of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF), Paul Ras Simba Rock has called on lawmakers to grant Rastafarians their rights to use marijuana for religious purposes when Parliament convenes tomorrow to debate the Medical Cannabis Bill.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley has indicated that she plans to put to a referendum the question of whether to fully legalise the herb.
He told Barbados TODAY that the AHF has been urging a moratorium on the arrest of Rastas for the possession of small amounts of cannabis and for small home garden cultivation.
He said: “People that are only growing a tree or two in their backyard should not be harassed by people.
“So, while the referendum is going on and all of this medicinal and pharmaceutical cannabis thing is happening, in the meantime, people like me still have to avoid the law and I think they should be an amnesty on these arrests.
“When you look at how the world is going when it comes to their attitudes towards cannabis Barbados is totally backward.”
Ras Simba told Barbados TODAY he would like Government to grant licences to the Rastafarian community to grow cannabis as “reparations” for the suffering the community has had to endure with the criminalisation of the plant over the years.
He said: “I would like to see Cannabis become free for sacramental use.
“I would love to see the Rastafarian community be given a licence and this licence will not have anything to do with the sacramental uses but a licence to grow a particular strain that is needed that the Government could buy and use within their pharmaceutical things and that can be a form of reparations.”
Ras Simba added that the debate on medicinal and recreational marijuana use should seek to right the wrongs done to the marginalized groups which have suffered.
He told Barbados TODAY: “The law should look at what the probation has done to communities and how it has dismantled at-risk communities and there should be a community cannabis programmes.
“The African Heritage Foundation has put a proposal to the Minister of Agriculture for one such proposal which we are looking at the re-empowerment economically and socially as well as from a health perspective for the community.”
The Rastafarian leader was responding to the announcement by Attorney General Dale Marshall that Government was committed to becoming a part of a legitimate cannabis industry.
Speaking at the Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers (BARJAM) Annual General Meeting two weeks ago, he said that contrary to popular belief churches were not against the legislation of cannabis.
‘I don’t think that the churches are against medicinal cannabis. The single treaty on narcotics, which is the 1969 United Nations Convention exempts what would normally be illegal drugs, so long as the purpose is either medical or scientific,” he said then.
Ras Simba said the problem he sees with the legislation moving forward is that Barbadians are misinformed about the benefits of the marijuana plant.
He said: “We have a lot of people who know very little about the herb.
“The question has never been about health but about economics and with cannabis how do you keep the economics among one class of people while denying another class access to it to be able to improve themselves.”
The president of the African Heritage Foundation said he hopes the bill would pass but predicted that the proposed referendum would not pass due to a stigma on marijuana which he told Barbados TODAY could be remedied once there was a national education campaign before the bills or the referendum are introduced.
Ras Simba said: “We have conducted a survey, we have shared the information with the Minister of Agriculture hoping that would be some assistance to him.
“We do not know what was done with the information passed on.
“On our website, we have series dedicated to cannabis education. We think the people who should be involved in the decision making are not really a part of the conversation.
“ I do not feel the Rastafarian community is being represented enough when it comes to our use of Cannabis for our sacramental use.” (LG)