After years of enduring strong-arm tactics by law enforcement for the possession and use of marijuana, members of the local Rastafarian community believe light is at the end of the tunnel.
At Temple Yard, a popular market and liming spot frequented by Rastafarians in Bridgetown, there was optimism after Attorney General, Dale Marshall’s announcement that marijuana would soon be decriminalised for religious purposes.
While many say they’ve been defying local marijuana laws for decades, they told Barbados TODAY the move would bring an end to long-standing tension between them and the Royal Barbados Police Force.
As Ras Binghi carefully crafted leather shoes at his stall in Temple Yard, he described the move as a “brilliant” one for the religious community, but interpreted it as an admission of guilt by the country’s political class for longstanding injustices.
“The ‘system’ has now finally come to a stage where it recognises itself as a criminal, because they knew all along that marijuana was good, but they decriminalised it for their special purposes. The ‘system’ is now showing up itself and admitting [marijuana] wasn’t bad all along. It was really good but they were just bull-sh***ing us. It’s simple,” Binghi told Barbados TODAY.
Describing the plant as his “birth certificate”, he said the new legislation would have little impact on his current lifestyle.
“I was always smoking marijuana and if it’s not legal, I am smoking it and if it’s legal, I am smoking it. So there’s no change because marijuana is my birth certificate. It’s like my second name so I am going to smoke the same way and control myself the same way,” he declared.
Over the past year, people who frequent Temple Yard have seen a marked reduction in the number of police raids in the area, but said they were staying vigilant until the new legislation had been passed in both Houses of Parliament.
According to Roland Fagan, the Attorney General’s announcement in Parliament this week represents progress from “old laws of the plantocracy” which still exist.
He told Barbados TODAY contrary to some beliefs, the plant did not prevent people from being productive members of society and more “progressive” laws on the issue would provide a great ease for Rastafarians and their families and the justice system.
“We have more critical issues affecting the youth including outside influences bringing in guns. Right now we are exposed to the media and the Internet and the problems that come with such things. So to have the judicial system eased up from marijuana cases would be great and would allow us to concentrate on more serious community problems,” he said.
For Fagan, marijuana is a burnt offering to “the master of creation” and represents one of the many gifts given to mankind. While many choose to smoke the herb, he stressed it can also be used for medicine, clothing, lumber, paint and textiles among other things.
“There will always be people with differing opinions. When slavery was abolished, there were differences in opinion, when we proposed an NIS [National Insurance Scheme], there were differences in opinion and when people put forward free education, there were differences in opinion,” he said in response to naysayers.
Another business owner in Temple Yard who asked to be identified only as ‘Rastafari’ described marijuana as a spiritual sacrament, which “gives a relaxing feeling, flourishes your mind with plenty thoughts and provides healing”.
“I feel great and honestly it’s something that should have been done a long time ago. I am just glad to see it coming to pass that we finally get our rights as rastafari,” she said in response to the recent announcement.
“There has been too much brutality and unfairness for just a plant. I have seen too much of it and I am happy the people in higher authority realise it is not worth it. The brutality that has come on us for this plant is not worth it. I have seen men snatched up and hit into the ground and given some really hard blows just for a ‘spliff’.” [email protected]