Barbadian Rastafari community throws support behind Guyanese counterparts  

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Dear Editor

On behalf of the Barbadian Rastafari community, Rastafari Progressive Movements (RPM) stand in perfect solidarity with the Guyanese Rastafari community, who are vehemently advocating for their human and constitutional rights to be recognised and respected as it pertains to cannabis use.

Based on the findings and recommendations of the CARICOM REGIONAL COMMISSION ON MARIJUANA, RPM agrees Caribbean governments should reform cannabis legislation in their respective countries.

In the executive summary of the final report submitted to CARICOM by the CARICOM REGIONAL COMMISSION ON MARIJUANA it states: “The designation of cannabis/marijuana as an unlawful substance and a dangerous drug is of relatively recent vintage. For most of our history, cannabis/ marijuana was a free substance, grown naturally and easily throughout the region. Indeed, many CARICOM citizens have memories of their grandparents and forefathers using cannabis/marijuana in benign fashion, such as “bash tea”, before the advent of prohibition, or, at least, its strict enforcement.”

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It also goes on to state: “After holding national Consultations receiving several submissions and a petition from the public, reviewing data from polls and surveys from several countries, it is clear that in the region, attitudes toward cannabis have changed in recent times. There is now overwhelming support for law reform moving away from the prohibition on cannabis and consequent criminalisation.”

We believe there is no other document more significant for use in considerations for cannabis reform in the Caribbean than ‘The Report of the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana 2018’. The Guyanese Government should act on the information contained in this report emphatically stating: “Modern jurisprudence also indicates that important human rights are at stake. Courts in Canada and the US have found that denying persons the ability to grow cannabis/marijuana at home for use as a personal medicine violates human rights.

These are persuasive precedents and are likely to penetrate Caribbean courts, expanding and in some cases, reversing more restrictive older human rights precedents on cannabis/marijuana. Such precedents are amplified by recent right to privacy judgements in Caribbean courts. These cases have held that it is unconstitutional for the state to prevent individuals from such use when taken to promote their health. When the precedents are read in conjunction with recent human rights precedents in the region, the Commission advises that the current prohibition on home-use in existing law is unlikely to be sustained if challenged in the courts.”

The Rastafari community in Barbados is currently utilising the courts of law to fight for the respect of their constitutional, human, and cultural rights as it pertains to cannabis. RPM hopes that Guyana intends to act more conscientiously in relation to the need to treat everyone with equal respect and dignity. RPM invites the Government of Guyana to heed these words from the CARICOM REGIONAL COMMISSION ON MARIJUANA:

“Notwithstanding the endgame, the Commission does not believe that total legalisation in a fully liberalised regime is a plausible option at this juncture for CARICOM. Yet, the Commission is of the view that a too limited approach to law reform, including one that focusses only on medical marijuana, would be counterproductive and inimical to the goals of Caribbean development, as outlined in the SDGs and endorsed by CARICOM. A balanced approach that would meet the main social justice, public health rights and citizen security objectives of the region would be a hybrid or mixed option. This would be an incremental and cautious approach to removing prohibition, but not too little that the goals would be frustrated, nor too much that CARICOM states are unable to manage the important regulatory controls that are envisaged. This approach would best suit the developmental objectives of the region.”

Respectfully,

Ras Simba Akoma

Public Relations Officer

Rastafari Progressive Movements



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