‘We have suffered enough’: Bajan Rastas demand justice for marijuana persecution

Spokesperson for the Ichirouganaim Council for the Advancement of Rastafari (ICAR), Peter ‘Adonijah’ Alleyne (Photo contributed)

Members of the Rastafari faith in Barbados have made strong representation for reparatory justice and respect for religious freedoms as a Joint Select Committee of Parliament holds public consultations on the proposed Medical Cannabis Industry Bill, 2019.

Spokesperson for the Ichirouganaim Council for the Advancement of Rastafari (ICAR), Peter ‘Adonijah’ Alleyne this week called for members of the Rastafarian community to benefit from reparatory justice if the proposed regulations for use of cannabis come on stream.

Addressing the committee this week, he contended that Rastafari farmers should not have to pay for a license to cultivate cannabis but should simply have to register.

“Government needs to acknowledge the injustices, atrocities, including death that Rastafari has endured for this same cannabis plant that now ends up being seen as a huge financial opportunity,” insisted Adonijah.

Adonijah Alleyne (Photo contributed)

He also described as “ill-advised” the plan to have a national referendum on the sacramental use of cannabis.

“For ICAR, that is totally unacceptable,” he said. “No one has the right to vote on whether other people should be able to enjoy their constitutional rights.”

When the Joint Select Committee first convened on September 10, founder and President of the Barbados-based African Heritage Foundation, Paul ‘Ras Simba’ Rock, made a similar plea for licenses to be granted to Rastafarians to cultivate cannabis as “reparations”.

He also rejected the proposed referendum on the use of marijuana, saying, “My spirituality, my sacrament should not be determined by a referendum. That is something separate and I would like that to be considered. I think that is disrespectful and a slap in the face of the Rastafari.”

Founder and President of the African Heritage Foundation Paul ‘Ras Simba’ Rock (Photo contributed)

Ras Simba asserted, “There is a UN treaty on religious tolerance and rights, and it says there should be no limitations placed on a person’s religious or spiritual aspirations if it does not interfere with another person, the public health, etcetera.”

During that hearing, Attorney General Dale Marshall conceded that the bill only contemplated cannabis for medical and scientific purposes, adding that anything outside of those categories would be classified as “prohibited use”.

The Medical Cannabis Industry Bill, 2019 provides for the regulation of the handling of medicinal cannabis in Barbados; the establishment of a Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority, a Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Board and a Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Appeals Tribunal; the issuing of licences for the handling of medicinal cannabis; and related matters.