Barbados:Take A Ganja gamble

One of the nation’s Rastafarian leaders has expressed cautious optimism though not fully satisfied as Government begins to consider a proposed ‘sacrament bill’ to legalise the religion’s use of marijuana as part of its ritual.

But the spokesman for the Ichirouganaim Council for the Advancement of Rastafari (ICAR) Adonijah said Government and the community are reportedly still “far apart” on certain restrictions to be imposed of the sacramental herb and key details were not revealed when Attorney General Dale Marshall made the announcement in Parliament last Tuesday.

Adonijah told Barbados TODAY: “It is by no means a done deal.

“It is a start and there are issues of course but I don’t think it would be right of me to discuss what those issues may be.

“I think it is a welcomed start but ICAR is fully aware of the fact that this is by no means a resolution to this issue.

“There is quite a way to go but this is a start and I welcome movement where there has been no movement before.”

The Attorney General’s declaration on Tuesday provided tremendous insight on Government’s rationale for legalising cannabis for Rastafarians, said the ICAR spokesman. But Marshall disclosed very little about the parameters of the bill including the allowable quantities of marijuana, the locations where it could be used or other possible restrictions.

He told the House of Assembly: “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.”

In response, Adonijah pointed out that Marshall did not disclose where the law would be applied but said: “ I respect the negotiation process that is going on between ICAR and the Government but I would not want to just go and jump and let out something.”

But hinting at a generational rift within the faith community, the Rastafarian leader sounded a conciliatory note as he indicated that while the group’s demands could not be facilitated overnight, younger factions within the movement were becoming restless.

Adonijah said: “There’s quite a lot to it and based on my interactions with other people on Facebook, some people are very impatient and think the current situation is foolishness and [the legislation] should contain this or that, but people need to realise the context in which we are speaking.

“In Barbados, just the fact that you are in the House of Assembly and calling the word cannabis is a big thing.

“It would not appear to be a big thing for young people who have not been out there on the battlefield so long.

“I have been on the battlefield and in the trenches for Rastafari and cannabis use for 40 years.
“So the ones that have now come to the fight, understandably are impatient.”

He said the previous Democratic Labour Party administration refused to discuss the Rastafarian community’s requests, and said he is pleased the current administration had started making provisions for some sacramental use after just 17 months in power.

The prominent academic, cultural icon and journalist said: “Barbados is one of the most ‘Babylonian’ places in the Western Hemisphere and to make any kind of dent at all in that issue is significant. It does not mean by any means that ICAR is satisfied.

“I am not satisfied with what I know about the bill, but I commend the fact that there has been a start, because there was nothing before. I feel for the people who are impatient but I want to tell them to put it into context.”