In what I can only assume to be a follow on to an article recently published in the Barbados Today online newspaper, in which I said that I hoped the Rastafari community would be given a stake in the national Medical Cannabis industry; an announcement was made by the Minister of Agriculture that the Rastafari community in Barbados would be (or have been) given 60 acres of land intended for cannabis cultivation.
The following day, in another newspaper, a picture of a small group of Rases representing the Ichirouganaim Council for the Advancement of Rastafari (ICAR) was taken as they entered parliament to listen to the presentation of the Medical Cannabis Industry Bill. As we know now the bill was deferred for further review and for public input. It is to be sent to the Select Committee and the decision making on the bill will commence when parliament reconvenes after summer break.
Government has conceded to the call of the opposition to have the bill postponed and become subject to public scrutiny.
In a previous article where I spoke to the indigenous uses of cannabis and its place in our communities, I stated that I had no issue with the bill itself. My issue is what the bill in itself represents. From myself and members of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF), the question is asked, how do you allot land for Rastafari brothers and sisters to cultivate cannabis for your industry when the plant for their sacramental use and daily levity remains illegal? In the above mentioned article I spoke of putting the cart before the horse, this is another prime example of that scenario being played out.
The Minister said in his response to me stating that I did not think Rastafari was well represented in the development of the Medical Cannabis Industry, that Government had met with two organizations representing Rastafari and the decision was taken to include them in the industry.
Judging by what was said, it seems Rastafari was not initially considered in the industry. This inclusion of the Rastafari community is not documented in the bill. I am not sure if it has to be, but for my one one, I think it should. If indeed Rastafari was initially considered to be part of the industry, was it not considered that this plant you are giving them license to cultivate for your industry, is their sacred plant and it is still illegal for them to use? I think, if any consideration of Rastafari, in anything that relates to cannabis is being put forward, it should start with legalizing cannabis for sacred and spiritual uses by Rastafari. Any Rastafari organization that is truly representing that community would have this on the table as a must before any cannabis talks can proceed. I would think that these two organizations would have put this point to the government. Evidently it has been ignored.
Thus I will take the Rastafari presence in parliament as a reminder to all involved in this modern Refer Madness that you Mr./Ms./Mrs. Babylon are still trampling and showing Rastafari contempt by offering them land before freedom to pray in peace. Let the bill state that licences will be given to Rastafari in repertory justice. The bill excludes people with criminal convictions from participating in the cannabis industry. Many Rases have cannabis convictions and convictions for offences that can be attributed directly to the prohibition of cannabis. Let us not forget Rases have been killed due to suspicion of cannabis.
For Rastafari cannabis has always been free. Men and people in their own bondage have made the plant illegal in themselves. Within their bondage they have imposed cruelty on the free man and woman.
I will close this short article by saying, when you do give up the fight and free cannabis for sacramental use by Rastafari, consider others who are not Rastafari use it for spiritual purposes, and they need to be free as well. We are all cannabis prisoners in your cannabis jail. I for one will not plant cannabis for you until it is free for me and others to use in our daily spiritual life’s.
Rastafari is not asking for a favour or handout. We demand justice! You speak of international treaties and conventions that hinder legalization processes relating to cannabis. Have you told us about the international conventions that you are also a signatory too that speak about religious rights and freedoms?
I truly think that the Minister of Agriculture is a well-intended man surrounded by maybe some not so well intended people. Many of the people in Government now, sat in seats of recognition and have never spoken for any justice pertaining to cannabis. The Minister of Agriculture is not on that list and will do his best in my personal estimation to straighten out the wobble and get this cannabis train on the right track.