Describing the Sacramental Cannabis Bill in its current form as offensive and problematic, President of the Afrikan Heritage Foundation (AHF) Paul Simba Rock says he is hoping to take Government to court soon for violation of human rights.
Rock told Barbados TODAY some members of the Rastafarian community were simply “fed up” with the provision of the Bill, which lawmakers discussed and passed late last year. It is yet to be proclaimed.
“The bill came out without any sort of regard for all segments of the Rastafarian community,” Rock said.
“The Bill is offensive in that these so-called places of worship have to apply for this permit. If granted a permit you can then cultivate at the place of worship but your members can only use the plant in a sacramental way at the place of worship. It is problematic in that most rastas don’t belong to a particular denomination,” he argued.
The Bill makes provision for a person of a Rastafarian religion and for Rastafarian congregations to use cannabis as a sacrament in worship at a place of worship or at a public place and for related purposes.
But Rock argued that there were many Rastafarians in Barbados who did not go to a place of worship or public place and would prefer to use cannabis in their homes.
“Everyone’s first place of worship is their home . . . once you are not infringing on the public or causing offence on the public then no limitation should be put on your human rights,” said Rock.
“It is not like I am saying we should be able to go on Swan Street or Broad Street and light up a spliff and smoke, because not everybody wants to smell that. We are aware of that. But what I am saying is that in the privacy of my home as a Rastafarian with my family I should be able to do that. The problem is that they are confusing sacrament from a more western Christian perspective and not taking the understanding of what Rastafarian sacrament is,” insisted Rock.
The Bill makes provision for fines of $10,000 or imprisonment of two years, or both, for various breaches.
The pro-marijuana advocate said he did not see any known Rastafarian organisation agreeing with the legislation in its current form.
“So we are nowhere. Anybody you see rushing up to sign that is somebody that now create a little something to try and jim screechie for something to go on for them,” he said.
Rock said he has already met with a lawyer and they were in the process of “drawing up the affidavits”, adding that in a matter of weeks they should be making their court filing.
“I don’t have anymore to say . . . So I think the more effective way now is the actual court. An actual court case should start to put us on the right path. If we lose we will take it to the Caribbean Court of Justice because it is a matter of my human rights. I am tired of this,” he said.
Adding that marijuana use has been a part of the region’s Rastafarian culture for decades and it should be protected, he said: “it is a serious matter . . . Court is on the agenda. March should not hit with this not being filed and the Attorney General’s office being served a summons.”
“I don’t see any other action that this Government is willing to listen to on behalf of the small people . . .”
In relation to medical cannabis use, Rock said some small farmers still needed clarification on exactly how they would benefit, adding that he did not believe excluding them would stop them from growing the marijuana or using it.
“A lot of the conversation has died down because people are fed up. Some people are saying that ‘whatever they say it won’t make a difference,” he said.
The Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill to govern the growing of cannabis for medical use, was passed in late 2019 and is yet to be proclaimed, and since then the Medical Cannabis Licensing Authority has been established and some staff members are already in place.
Government is hoping to start issuing licenses “no later than the end of February”.
Rock said he was hoping that when it was time to do so that “the small man” would not be left out because he could not afford it.
“The question still is, are the financial institutions ready for this sort of activity, and how long is this sort of activity going to take the small man to be organized. So the small man, unless what is being said is being backed by some sort of Government assistance, people like myself will always be behind the pack. I think that is still problematic on that level,” he said.
“I think personally, the first cannabis farm should be a national one where the revenue from this farm is repatriated back into the society especially for youth development and youth empowerment,” he recommended.
“Going down this present path just as it is I don’t see anything much for people like me. We may have to find alternative ways for getting involved and that may not be as lucrative as we would like it to be,” said a less than optimistic Rock. [email protected]