Shocked and in awe!
That is how former Member of Parliament Hamilton Lashley is feeling following the news that Government is preparing legislation to take to Parliament to debate permitting members of the Rastafarian community to use cannabis for religious purposes.
This morning, a heartened and pleasantly surprised Lashley said that though hours had passed since Attorney General Dale Marshall made the announcement in Parliament during debate on the Medical Cannabis Industry Bill, 2019 yesterday, “I am still lost for words and in disbelief”.
“I cannot believe that today November 6 that I would have lived to see that Barbados is now moving towards the aspect of legalization of marijuana. I never thought I would have seen this happen in my lifetime knowing the conservative Barbadian community that we live in. And of course I am glad to see too that this present Attorney General made a 360,” he said.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Marshall said that the decision to introduce the legislation which should be available in the next few weeks was made following a challenge from the Rastafarian community to find a way for Rastas to use cannabis for their religious beliefs the same way people would be allowed to use it for medicinal purposes.
Marshall said it is the Rastafarian community’s right to use the drug for sacramental beliefs.
However, Lashley recalled that when he made the call two decades ago there was an outcry from several Members of Parliament and civil society who were disturbed that he even made the statements in the hollowed chambers of Parliament.
“But now it is heartening to know that after the early fight that this current Government has come around to a position where they see the right of having it legalized. For too long, the Rastafarian people in this country have been abused, accused, ostracized, marginalized and stigmatized for what they believe,” he said.
Lashley believes that while progress was being made, Parliament should take a step further and expunge marijuana convictions of members of the Rastafarian community who were caught using the drug as part of their religious beliefs and for medicinal purposes.
“Furthermore, I really believe too that they are also owed an apology. I also recall the case of the guy from St John who they found in possession of a number of marijuana plants and he said clearly before the court that he has a serious ailment. It was proven by the medical fraternity that he was using it for the purpose of helping to cure his ailment.
“But yet he was sentenced to three years in prison for possession and trafficking when he was using it for medicinal purposes. I would like to see those kind of cases scrapped from the records,” he said.
As he acknowledged Government’s intention to create a thriving medical cannabis industry, Lashley is once again appealing to authorities to give the Rastafarian community the first option to develop the industry.
He said it was hypocritical for those who have always been against the legalization of Barbados to reap the sweets.
“Now the whole issue of taking a referendum to the people of Barbados to have it legalized for recreational purposes is one that I agree with in a sense, but I believe that a lot of thought has to go into the use for recreational purposes for anybody. There must be a level of control when it comes to recreational use,” he said.