On behalf of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF), and the Rastafari community, I would like to thank Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley for ratifying the exemption of Rastafari from having to take the COVID-19 vaccine, and being penalized for this position.
Previously, on behalf of the Rastafari community I had spoken publicly on the issue of vaccine exemptions, which are presently used to allow children to attend school, without having to take the any mandatory vaccinations. It was uncertain with the chaos being caused by COVID-19 and its related vaccine, if the existing affidavits that are used to exempt children, and adults from taking vaccines as mentioned previously, would be applicable to the COVID-19 vaccine.
It is on this foundation that I say thank you to the Barbadian PM for clarifying that matter publicly, in her mask depicting Rastafari colours.
Nevertheless, the AHF and the Rastafari community are still irate that the PM of Barbados and her government, who continue to blatantly and disrespectfully ignore their demands to have the issue of justice and equality within cannabis reform in Barbados addressed.
The Barbados Labour Party (BLP), has admitted that it, and the previous government had been violating the religious rights of Rastafari, by not allow members of its community to legally access the cannabis plant for their spiritual usages. As such, a law was passed in late 2019 that gave Rastafari the right to cultivate and use cannabis at a place of worship, through permission given by the Attorney Generals Office. Although this law is erroneous and disrespects every Rastarai in Barbados, and by extension Rastafari internationally, by excluding the Rastafari home as a recognized place of worship within the new sacramental cannabis law’s framework, the AHF made application for such permission.
The AHF although not a traditional place of Rastafari worship, is a space that Rastafari study both in person and online. The AHF is also a space that invites Rastafari traditional worship such as the Nyabinghi to use the location to host celebration praises or ises. It is the home of the RED LIGHT, an evening of Rastafari contemplation and celebration through music and speeches from Haile Selassie, Marcus Garvey and other African liberation revolutionaries.
The AHF was founded by myself a Rastafari brother in the movement for 30 years. I am very serious and passionate about the advancement of Rastafari within the context of this article. That is to say, I am for the advancement of humanity on the whole.
A couple weeks ago the AHF made application to the Attorney Generals Office to get permission, as a Rastafari place of worship, to cultivate and use cannabis within its study and prayer. In fact, with such permission the AHF intends to include into its study and worship framework the ” Steam Chalice Circle”.
In following up on the application, I was told that the system, that would allow for the applications to be processed, was not ready. That means from 2019 until now, almost two years later, with a law in place, Rastafari still cannot legally access cannabis for their spiritual observances.
This is unacceptable and I am asking the PM to look into this matter and have it rectified as soon as is humanly possibly.
It seems that the government, while seemingly recognizing the human and constitutional rights of Rastafari, is doing so for the sake of appeasing the populace, while not really doing so. People are still being arrested for less than 15 grams of cannabis, which the law now says is a ticketable offence. The reason given for this is that the ticket books were not ready. How long does it take to get these books ready? When the decision was made by government to make 15grams or less of cannabis ticketable, did it not think to first print ticket books or their police officers to use?
Once again the religious / spiritual rights of Rastafari have been recognized. This time it has been done through the exemption from having to take the COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons. However, PM Mia Amor Mottley and crew refuse to totally accept rights when it comes to religious cannabis freedoms.
It would seem cannabis to the BLP is more of a serious issue than COVID-19.
Ras Simba Akoma