Caribbean Rastafari Union calls on Guyana to change “draconian” ganja laws

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…says hidden prejudices remain against the poor, marginalised and Rastafarians

Rastafarian movements and councils in Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Haiti, which come under the Caribbean Rastafari Union (CRU), have come out in support of Guyana’s Rastafarian community calling for a fast-tracking of legislation which no longer deems cannabis/marijuana use as illegal in the country.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday, CRU also condemned the recent raid, arrest and imprisonment of a prominent Rastafari elder and former President of the Guyana Rastafari Council, Ras Leon Saul.

The movements and councils comprise of Rastafari Millennium Council (Jamaica); Rastafari Progressive Movement (Barbados); All Mansions of Rastafari (Trinidad and Tobago); Rastafari Federation of Suriname; Rastafari Movement of Ayiti (Haiti) and the Guyana Rastafari Council.

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Regarding legislation, CRU stated that it has noticed that the long-delayed legislative reforms of Guyana’s “draconian” Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances Control Act of 1988 did not make any provision to recognize Rastafari as a legitimate Caribbean religion and culture. The Rastafarian religion and culture, it said, is worthy of exemption from prosecution under the said Act.

The CRU underlined that all CARICOM governments should be guided by the findings and recommendations from the CARICOM Marijuana Commission’s report. It called on Guyana to amend its laws and to establish cannabis as an economic industry.

“…we call on the government of Guyana to swiftly and comprehensively amend the laws with respect to cannabis by completely removing cannabis from among the list of dangerous drugs under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1988 and creating a separate act to establish, regulate and control cannabis as an economic industry that is favourable to Guyanese farmers, especially Rastafari who deserved preferential access and treatment within the cannabis industry, as a form of reparatory and restorative justice for decades of State-sponsored abuse and violation of their human and constitutional rights to practice their religion and culture,” the Union stated.

It further referenced the CARICOM Marijuana Commission as concluding that the original classification of cannabis in law as a dangerous drug and one without medicinal or other value has no merit.

CRU said that it is high time that “stereotyping and hidden prejudices” against the Rastafarian community be done away with as they primarily affect the poor, marginalized and Rastafarians.



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