The government of Barbados reserves an essential role for Rastafarians in the process of legalization of cannabis
Trevor Prescod, Minister of Environment and National Embellishment of Barbados, supported the legalization of cannabis last September 21, and assured that the country’s thousands of Rastafarians will play a very important role in the impending process of legalization of cannabis that will allow them to freely consume marijuana as part of their religious beliefs.
Trevor Prescod has said he sees no harm in the moderate consumption of ganja (marijuana) and that the citizens of Barbados are beginning to accept cannabis for its medicinal properties. Barbados begins to support cannabis use among Rastafarians and also among other communities as it is a substance that enjoys the support of doctors and pharmacists. In addition, many people in Barbados want to legalize cannabis for economic reasons because they are aware that the new industry could be of great help to the island’s economy.
The Minister says that in addition to believing in the therapeutic value of cannabis, we must also allow the Rastafarian faith to use marijuana for religious and ceremonial purposes and that if other religions in Barbados are allowed to practice their religious customs, so should also allow members of the Rastafarian faith to consume cannabis as part of their legitimate religion.
Perhaps there is more than it seems in these words of the minister. The truth is that Barbados has already begun to prepare to legalize medical cannabis. But if Rastafarians were allowed to use recreational cannabis as part of their religious rituals, it would be unfair that other citizens could not have the same right. Therefore, the role of Rastafarians in the process of legalizing medical and recreational marijuana in Barbados will be very important.
The Minister of Agriculture, Indar Weir, recently announced that the government had reserved land for the Rastafari community to cultivate legalized marijuana, and promised that Rastafarians would play an important role in establishing a medical cannabis industry. According to Weir, 60 acres of land will be granted to Rastafarians so they can legally grow cannabis.
Last year the Rastafarians from across the island met at the Israel Lovell Foundation to discuss the many problems that affect the community. At the top of the list of problems discussed was the business of the marijuana industry. The Rastafarians spent hours talking about their legal and constitutional right to use cannabis for spiritual and sacramental purposes. They also talked about the impending cannabis industry and its participation in it.
Rastafarians have been persecuted and arrested in Barbados for cultivation, consumption and possession of marijuana, which is an essential plant in their religious rites. When Weir presented a bill to the Chamber to legalize the medical cannabis industry, he consulted the Rastafarian community about it. Weir said that the Government had met on numerous occasions with several groups of Rastafarians to assure them that they would be a very important part of the cannabis industry in Barbados. The truth is that the role of Rastafarians in the legalization of cannabis in Barbados and in the development of the industry will be decisive and quite possibly the cause for the legalization of cannabis for recreational use by adults. Among other things because they have been growing marijuana for a long time and they know a lot about it.
Minister Weir’s comments were pronounced a day after the president of the African Heritage Foundation, Paul Ras Simba Rock, begged the government to allow Rastafarians to consume cannabis for religious purposes. But Weir ruled out further decriminalization in Barbados for now. Weir said that the bill referred to the consumption and legalization of medical cannabis with very little THC. But he also added that the debate on the legalization of recreational cannabis would come at a later stage.
The minister also promised that all citizens of Barbados would benefit from the establishment of a legal medical cannabis industry. He said that any foreign investor interested in getting involved in the cannabis industry in Barbados would have to allow Barbadians to own 30 percent of their business and that the legalization process guarantees that any Barbadian has the opportunity to participate.
The debate about the legalization, or even decriminalization, of cannabis in Barbados has been controversial. The country’s current government, elected in May 2018, had originally proposed a referendum to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use in December, and Prime Minister Mia Mottley said during the reading of the 2019-2020 National Budget of the country that they were taking the first steps for the creation of a cannabis industry. But the process has strong opposition from the leaders of the country’s Christian community, the Barbados Road Safety Association, and even members of the ruling party that formed a coalition to pressure the government to rethink its position. In fact, the only religious group that supports the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana is the Rastafarian community.
The Rastafarians believe that the use of cannabis is promoted in the Bible, and they cite to reinforce their statement the passages written in Genesis 1:29, Psalm 18: 8 and Revelation 22: 2. Trevor Prescod, Minister of Environment and National Embellishment of Barbados, said publicly that if cannabis plays an important role in the Christian rituals of Rastafarians, they must be allowed to do so.
In any case, Barbados is a secular state that allows the coexistence of different religious creeds. Although cannabis is still illegal at the moment, the reality regarding the use and consumption of marijuana from Rastafarians is very similar to that of India. In our article “Cannabis in India” we explain that while marijuana is an illegal substance in this country, the truth is that it is an essential part of Hinduism and therefore, the authorities do not intervene in the religious rituals in which ganja is consumed.
Although it is not exactly the same situation since Rastafarians have been persecuted and stigmatized in Barbados for cultivating and consuming ganja, the situation is about to change as Barbados reserves a special role for Rastafarians in the process of legalization and the future industry of cannabis For starters, the government already has 60 acres of land reserved so that Rastafarians can legally grow medical marijuana and be an active part of the cannabis industry in Barbados.