If the Rastafarian community wants the Government to legalize cannabis for sacramental purposes, it will have to do so in another forum.
Attorney General Dale Marshall made it abundantly clear this morning that the Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2019 will permit the drug to be used for medicinal and scientific purposes only.
Speaking at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre this morning where the Bill was being discussed by a 16-member Joint Select Committee, Marshall said any such request would have to be made at a later date.
He made the declaration following an earlier presentation by the president of the African Heritage Foundation (AFH) Paul Ras Simba Rock, who called on Government to allow Rastafarians to use cannabis for sacramental purposes.
“Regrettably, and it is not my position, but regrettably anything other than medical or scientific falls into a third category, whatever you want to call it; it doesn’t matter what name it is but that is the prohibitive use,” Marshall said.
When then asked by the Attorney General to explain the difference between sacramental use and recreational use of the drug, Ras Simba said there was a distinct dissimilarity.
“I think a Christian would take offence to say going to church on Sunday is recreational. There is a difference between what I hold fast as part of the essence of my being, my spirituality and what I do for just enjoyment.
“My prayer, my supplication to whoever or whomever, my deity, it is not a part of my recreation,” he maintained.
During his educational and informative presentation, Ras Simba suggested that the Government should first consider using cannabis in its indigenous form before looking at its medicinal benefits.
The outspoken Rastafarian argued that cannabis could be used to help treat and prevent certain ailments.
“We must speak of the indigenous use of the plant. I understand what the Bill presents is more a pharmaceutical structure where you are standardizing products made from the plant…but what we are saying is that before you get to the pharmaceutical aspect of the plant you have to look at the indigenous uses. This comes with the idea of preventative medicine,” he explained.
“What we are saying, indigenous use should be added on to the Bill where people in the community would have the opportunity to use the whole plant as they see fit, the same way you would use an orange, the same way you would use garlic, turmeric and anything like that.”
Ras Simba also sought to dispel a suggestion by Senator Caswell Franklyn, a member of the committee, that cannabis “sent people to the Mental”.
Franklyn raised concerns about the various strains of cannabis available on the black market.
Ras Simba said some of the same ingredients being used in the ‘cush’ and ‘exotic’ strains were extremely harmful to persons who used them.
“There is a strain of herb in the UK now called cush that is making the youth angry. It is having a negative impact on them, so I am saying that this is our concern,” he stressed.
“On the streets, we have something called exotic and I think that is very dangerous. We are not having proper public education…there are people who are spraying it with embalming fluid and all kinds of things. These things are harmful to people.”
Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde told Ras Simba that what he and Government were striving for “were not far apart”.
He urged him to work closely with authorities and to “combine efforts” in an attempt to make the initiative a success.