BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Barbados’ Rastafarian community will soon be able to lawfully use marijuana in their religious sacrament.
During debate in Parliament on the Medical Cannabis Industry Bill – which was passed – Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Dale Marshall said draft legislation to allow the use of cannabis for religious purposes is being drafted and should be ready within the next few weeks.
“I have taken to Cabinet and I have got Cabinet’s approval for the preparation of a Bill to bring to this chamber which will facilitate the use by members of the Rastafarian faith of cannabis for the purpose of their religion,” he said.
“For us to continue to prohibit that would be to continue to breach their fundamental constitutional rights. And not just rights guaranteed by the Barbados Constitution, but rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Marshall added, noting that the Covenant states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and that right should include “freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom either individually or in community with others and in public or private to manifest his religion, or belief or worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
The 2018 manifesto of the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) had outlined a promise to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes – noting that significant strides had been made on the use of marijuana in pain management and for the treatment of a range of medical complaints – and to hold a referendum on the decriminalization of recreational marijuana use.
Marshall said consultations had begun with the Rastafarian community and he believed going the route of legalization of marijuana for religious purposes is the right and decent thing to do.
“The same way that we go where science takes us, we have to go where the law requires,” the Attorney General said. “We understand that there will be some people who will try to find a way of using that system. But that is no excuse for denying a person his fundamental human rights.”
“I am not a Rastafarian, but I am not a Muslim either. I am not a Hindu. I am not a Buddhist. But yet still I acknowledge that those individuals have the human right, guaranteed by our Constitution and guaranteed by all of the human rights treaties that we have ventured into, to not only practice their faith, but to have a manifestation of their faith in the way that suits them and their God,” Marshall added.
While Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley and spokesperson for the Ichirouganaim Council for the Advancement of Rastafari, Adonijah Alleyne have expressed support for the move, the leaders of two political parties – President of the Democratic Labour Party Verla DePeiza and President of Solutions Barbados Grenville Phillips II – described the plan as an underhanded attempt by the Mottley administration to legalize marijuana for all.
But anticipating the latter response, Marshall had told Parliament: “I can hear it now: ‘See what I tell yuh? This was just a way to bring you closer to recreational use’. That is what they said about medicinal cannabis, but I am not going to veer away from doing the right thing because there is a perception that it brings me closer to x, y or z. Every time you sell a knife at a hardware store you bring somebody closer to harming somebody else. But knives, Sir, are still selling.”