The Ichirouganaim Council for the Advancement of Rastafari (ICAR) is not “in bed” with Government.
This assurance has come from spokesperson Adonijah, as he sought to dispel any belief that the Rastafarian movement stands to benefit significantly from the passing of the Medicinal Marijuana Industry Bill 2019.
The Bill was introduce to Parliament last Friday by Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir, but debate was eventually postponed and the legislation sent to the Select Committee for review at the request of Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley.
During his almost two-hour presentation in Parliament, Weir revealed that following several meetings with two groups representing the Rastafarian community, it was agreed that 60 acres of land would be set aside for them.
Adonijah said this had led to persons assuming that members of ICAR would benefit personally.
“Unfortunately there are some who choose to believe that ICAR is “in bed with Government” because of its negotiations and that there is some secret plan in which members of the organisation will benefit personally. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Adonijah insisted.
He said following the change in Government last year, a meeting was held between ICAR and the Minister of Agriculture, at which it was reasoned that an amount of agricultural land would be leased to ICAR, for the purpose of food security.
“At no point was it agreed that this land would be used to cultivate cannabis. An agricultural plan was submitted to the Minister,” he said.
He explained that ICAR had been lobbying for the legalisation of cannabis and its uses for decades, but that action had been stepped up following the establishment of the CARICOM Committee on Marijuana (CCM).
The spokesman said the previous Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration had also been approached by ICAR, to no avail.
“ICAR attempted on more than one occasion to have audience with Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite on cannabis issues. Our first letter did not receive acknowledgement of receipt for over a year and no meeting ever took place,” Adonijah pointed out.
He said in the current Government’s 2018 manifesto, it committed itself to a medical marijuana industry and a referendum on decriminalization/recreational cannabis.
However, he said ICAR was not in favour of any such referendum, especially since the CCM has stated that this was not the way to go.
Adonijah pledged ICAR’s continued work in lobbying for the return of the cannabis plant to its natural status, with no punitive laws.
“ICAR is working for legalisation but we are mature enough to know the workings of the system. The liberalisation that we are seeing in neighbouring countries took years of negotiation. It did not happen overnight.
“Government has committed to a staged approach in which the medicinal bill comes first, followed by consideration of sacramental use and the promised referendum. ICAR urges those who know the goodness of cannabis to raise their voices and express themselves on the issue,” Adonijah said. [email protected]