The Interim Committee of the newly formulated United Rastafari Council hosted a community groundings (meeting) yesterday evening (14th November). The groundings was focused on Rastafari and their constructional right to use cannabis as a sacrament.
Invited to sit with the Rastafari community and other members of the public was Attorney – at – Law Mr. Douglas Trotman.
Mr. Trotman who led the discussion, asked the community if anyone had ever brought a legal case that challenged the state on the right of Rastafari to use cannabis as a sacrament. That question was met with the answer no. He then proceeded to read articles of the constitution that spoke to religious rights. One of the Rastafari sisters who was present, made note that in 1998 a Rastafari conference was held in Barbados. At this conference she said the points that Mr. Trotman presented were told to them by Rastafari lawyers in the region who were in attendance. Mr. Trotman then asked the sister what was done since 1998 to date to act on the information that was shared at that conference as it related to cannabis, the law and the constitution. The response was that it was told to them that to make such a case, a Rastafari grouping would have to be registered as a church. It was further stated that The Order Of The Nyabinghi who was seen as the only churchical grouping of Rastafari at that time, was unwilling to be registered in the system as a religious entity. Thus no further action was taken to bring a case to court that challenged the state for the right of Rastafari to use cannabis as a sacrament. Mr. Trotman made it clear, such a case could be brought by an individual, a couple people or an organization and needed no such previously mentioned registration.
As the discussion progressed, Mr. Trotman turned the attention of the gathering to a recent case in South Africa where in a case called The Stobbs Trial, three persons won the right to personal use of cannabis in the privacy of their homes. The trial looked at the right to privacy under the South African constitution and was granted an order of constitutional invalidity. Mr. Trotman noted that the Barbadian and South African constitution were similar in many regards and should be examined closely as to how it might pertain to us. He left a 76 page document that outlined that case in detail that can be accessed through the African Heritage Foundation.
Some hard questioned were put on the floor at this groundings for the Rastafari community. One such question spoke to the use of cannabis by children. It was asked of the community how they viewed the use of cannabis by children. This question brought mixed answers. One sister said that she did not expose her youth to it when they were younger. It was pointed out that many Rastafari families did not shield their children from cannabis smoke and they had healthy children that were advancing well with education. It was also noted that many Rastafari mothers use cannabis during pregnancy and gave birth to healthy children. Mr. Trotman then asked where the recorded evidence of this was. He stated that to challenge the given perspective and research that deemed cannabis was dangerous to children, the Rastafari community would have to record their own evidence gathered over the existence of the movement from 1928 to date.
Medical cannabis was said to be a done deal with international players waiting to capitalize on that billion dollar industry. It was put forward that to ensure a place in any cannabis industry, marginalized groupings would have to work together. It was mentioned that this issue was on the agenda of an upcoming Rastafari conference in the region. It was said that a plan to address this issue at the level of CARICOM was on the agenda at this conference. Not much was said on that. However as I recollect the evenings proceedings, I am of the opinion that this may not yield the results sought for by the Rasses. I am thinking that CARICOM initiated a task force to investigate cannabis and its prohibition. Regardless of this taskforce’s findings, each territory was then left to decide what it would take as it relates to the legalization or decriminalization of cannabis. Thus for CARICOM to act on an issue such as cannabis security for Rastafari or even marginalized groupings in the region seems highly unlikely. But hey what do I know!
As an attendee at this groundings, it is my personal opinion that these points recorded were the substance of the gathering that left those present with some food for thought.
I look forward to seeing what is done with the information shared at this groundings. I am thankful that such a forum was convened. My only regret, if I can call it that, is that more people did not take the opportunity to attend this grass roots forum.
To my brother Douglas, Walk Good.
YOU ARE INVITED:
The African Heritage Foundation (AHF) will host itsbi- weekly reggae house lime entitled “Red Light” on Saturday 17th November. This is a fundraising activity hosted by this charity to assist it with its educational services. At present the charity operates a homeschooling service and is raising funds to assist with equipment, materials, books and educational software etc. Admission to the “Red Light” is $10. Come and lime with members of this charity and find out more about what they are doing and intend to do. Please see flyer to details.