Rastafarians seek urgent meeting with prime minister, Cabinet over cannabis reform

Rastafarians seek urgent meeting with prime minister, Cabinet over cannabis reform

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A Rastafari collective is seeking urgent intervention from the government to address the injustice, prejudice, and ongoing discrimination against the religious community for its sacramental use of cannabis/hemp and related byproducts.

The letter penned by Copeland “Ras Amen” Smith of House Of Rastafari (HOR) Inter-Mansion Collective, and addressed to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, also calls for consideration of crown land grants for cultivation, and to establish a prison ministry as well as a credit union.

“The Bahamas Rastafari Community, implore the urgent intervention of our Prime Minister, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Health, Attorney General, and their relevant ministries to address the injustice, prejudice, and ongoing discrimination against the Rastafari community in the use, cultivation, importation, and possession of the sacrament cannabis/hemp and its byproducts,” it read.

“Just as Catholics broadly believe in taking communion, the sacrament of Rastafari is cannabis. It is incumbent on the Government of The Bahamas to ensure that the rights and privileges of all Bahamians, Rastafari included, are safeguarded by law. This is a matter of social justice.”

The letter underscored five central points of concern: licensing and authorization to cultivate, import and possess Indian hemp/cannabis; the granting of Crown Land for cultivation and farming; the expunction of hemp/cannabis-related criminal records and the relaxation/discretion in the application of related criminal offenses (arrests) until revised laws are passed; establishing a prison ministry (or volunteering in current programs); and establishing a HOR Credit Union for our community.

It read: “The Government must act quickly on resolving these matters in an amicable way. As Rastafarians, we have a long history with cannabis/hemp, and an abundance of in-depth knowledge on farming, storage, product creation, proper usage, and application.

“We humbly invite your conscientious, respectful, and civilized intervention as we delay using the court system to advance our cause. We eagerly anticipate a positive response.”

The letter follows statements from Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Michael Pintard, who announced plans earlier this month to lobby the Cabinet to move forward with the cultivation of industrial hemp and CBD in The Bahamas.

Pintard said that numerous meetings have already been held with Bahamian and foreign investors on the opportunities for industrial hemp — a variety of cannabis Sativa grown specifically for industrial use.

The minister’s comments come amid longstanding public debate over the government’s plans to decriminalize cannabis in The Bahamas following more than two years of consultation and a preliminary report by the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana.

The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana (BNMC) – initially formed to gauge public opinion – has been reappointed by the prime minister for another year, according to the commission’s chairman Quin McCartney.

In August, McCartney told Eyewitness News that the commission was moving to assess the way forward in order to gauge public opinion on cannabis and make final recommendations to the government.

He advised that the life of the commission will now run from July 1, 2020, until June 30, 2021.

Last year, Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, filed a writ in the Supreme Court on behalf of members of the Rastafarian community seeking damages and the expunction of all Indian hemp-related convictions since 1963.