NASSAU BAHAMAS – The statement of claim for a suit against the government by members of the Rastafarian community is expected to be completed and served within two weeks, said attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, yesterday.
“We are at the point that within a week or two at the most, we should have our statement of claimed finished, filed and served and then the government side will have to file their defense,” Munroe told reporters at Government House.
“After that point, we go to case management before a judge and then the judge will set a timeline and give direction of a trial.”
The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana has green-lighted recreational and medicinal marijuana usage, and proposed that the substance be decriminalized and persons be allowed to have a maximum of one ounce of the substance in their possession without prosecution.
The preliminary report, which was leaked to the media last month, features recommendations from various subcommittees on the medical, economic, religious and recreational use of cannabis in The Bahamas.
The commission further recommended that Rastafarians be allowed to utilize the substance under a regulated framework.
“The Rastafarian Movement should be required to set up a Rasta Council that would advise the government on the names of persons who have been clearly identified as Rastafarians (the aim of the council is to expose persons whose intent is to claim to be a Rastafarian to use cannabis carte blanche)”, the report said.
Several parts of the report have not yet been completed and remain under review by the commission.
Munroe’s Rastafarian clients are seeking damages and the expunction of marijuana related convictions from their criminal records.
He noted yesterday that his clients’ case will not be impacted by the commission’s report.
“The assertion is from the point of our first constitution in 1963, Rastafarians had a right to practice their religion, including the consumption of cannabis,” Munroe said.
“Because their rights were oppressed, they have historic claims.
“So, they have claims to say that our rights were abused for all of this period, and we want compensation for that period.”
He continued, “I haven’t read the draft report so I don’t know what the government proposes with regard to sacramental marijuana.
“I’ve seen some of it and it seems not to apprehend what the law is.
“…So, I don’t know how they intend to approach the sacramental use of marijuana.
“Certainly, you can’t dictate to a Rastafarian how much marijuana he must consume in a day.
“You cannot force him to get it from anywhere, and the most the government should be concerned about is that sacramental marijuana doesn’t make it outside of that u se for it.
“And so that’s a matter of control in terms of assessing its production and that all that’s produced is used for the religious purpose.”