Lawmakers today moved to allow Rastafarians to use marijuana for their sacramental purposes while the Pentecostal preacher who is the Leader of the Opposition suggested that Government was taking a route to backdoor legalisation.
During debate on the Sacramental Cannabis Bill in the House of Assembly, Bishop Joseph Atherley declared he would have a problem if the Government intended to free up the atmosphere for the widespread use of marijuana.
He declared it would be an insult to the Rastafarian community if the draft legislation is actually used for their political manipulation.
Atherley said: “Hear me clearly Mr Speaker, I support this legislation that allows for sacramental use by the Rastafarian community in expression of their faith, but I am saying Mr Speaker, if as is believed by some, that this is an attempt to manipulate the voting opinion of a specific group in Barbados, particularly the Rastafarian community, then it is an insult to the Rastafarian community.
“It is the Government’s responsibility, to ensure that the Rastafarian community is not of that view.
“Now, if that is out of place and out of order, then perhaps I think that I am in the wrong place, and maybe at the wrong time.
“So you hear me clearly Mr Speaker, if this is intended to bring the thousands of members of the Rastafarian community in Barbados to a place where at the next poll they vote for this administration, then it is an insult to that community.”
The Opposition Leader also indicated that he would not back the provision in the bill that would allow for the cultivation of marijuana plants at Rastafari temples.
He said that while Government was establishing a platform for the legal cultivation of marijuana on a wide scale, those who want to obtain the substance for sacramental purposes would not have to find themselves “going through the back alleys and resorting to darkened corners in the shadow of night to obtain the plants”.
Atherley said he was persuaded that there was no need to allow members of the Rastafarian religion to grow marijuana at their places of worship.
He told the House: “I support the law which allows them to use the plant in their religious practices and rituals and ceremonies.
“I don’t see that the need has been clearly established as to why you must further allow persons who manage or lead these worship centres to plant.
“The point I am making Mr Speaker is that the use of the substance does not necessarily require cultivation of the plant.”
Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir said the use of the drug for sacramental use was specific to the Rastafarian faith and could not be mixed with the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal or scientific purposes.
“As the minister that piloted the bill for medicinal use of cannabis, I am concerned about the deliberate attempt to mislead the public. Medicinal cannabis is for scientific use.
“You cannot allow any type of cannabis to be cultivated near because of the risk of cross contamination, cross pollination.
“And it is erroneous to suggest that if we are to allow the wild growth of cannabis across Barbados, that we will not be endangering cultivars for specific scientific research,” he said.