News, Regional News

Rastafari want reparation and a slice of the medical marijuana pie

Published 19 March, 2021


Buckie Got It, St. Kitts and Nevis News Source

Article by
Marlon Madden

The Rastafari community says it is prepared to turn up the heat on Government over several issues it claims are in violation of human rights.

At the same time, the Rastafari Progressive Movement (RPM) is making a case for reparation for Rastafari from Government and at least a quarter of the profits from the local medicinal cannabis industry.

This comes as the group expressed growing concern about a recent land lease in St John to a section of the minority group, proposed changes to the Drug Abuse (Prevention and Control) Act and what it feared could be forced vaccination in the not-too-distant future.

Speaking at a media conference on Thursday at the Bongo Lights Culture Place in The City, Public Relations Officer of the RPM Paul Ras Simba Rock said the move by Government to amend the drug abuse law so that individuals would be fined $200 to be paid in 30 days instead of being dragged before the court was simply hypocritical, still oppressive and unjust.

Rock, who is the President of the African Heritage Foundation, was supported by representatives of several other Rastafari groups that are members of RPM.

Stating that Rastas were not prepared to pay the fine, he said “we will fight it in court to the highest level”.

It was on that note that Rock called for Rastafari reparations, saying that they have been oppressed for years as a result of laws, which he said were in need of urgent change.

“A part of that culture is the use of cannabis and the non-use of vaccines. So we want to know from the Government, will the indigenous rights of Rastafari be respected? It has to be. We want to know if the Government is going to do this as a matter of conscience or will we have to go to war and fight for it because whichever way it takes place it has to be respected,” said Rock.

“In terms of Rastafari reparations the first thing that has to be done, there needs to be a change of the law. Ganja prisoners must be set free, people who are languishing in jail and those who have been incarcerated because of the herb, some sort of reparation should be paid to these people,” he said.

He proposed that Rastafari be given a percentage from the revenues earned from the burgeoning medicinal cannabis industry, which officially began in mid-January this year.

“There are many ways that reparations can take form, but if you are forming an industry we should be automatically given a percentage of that industry. I am not talking about going to plant our own herb and having our own farms although that would be good too, but from the revenue coming in Rastafari should be given at least 25 per cent,” Rock recommended.

“The point is that a percentage of that revenue should come into the Rastafari community where we can take that and do for ourselves. We can build our schools and we can do great things with that in our society for ourselves. So if we have that and don’t have the stain of being criminals in the society we can do much for ourselves,” he stressed.

He criticized Government over a recent move to lease a portion of land in Bath, St John to Rastafari groups for them to do agriculture farming, questioning why it was not offered to the wider Rastafari community and for them to do medicinal cannabis farming instead.

“Food security is a must, we know that and the farming of any land is good especially organic farming . . . but it does not excuse the Government from the injustice it has done the Rastafari community in terms of their exclusion out of the medical cannabis industry and continued prohibition of the plant as it pertains to the people of Barbados and Rastafari,” he said.

In relation to the vaccine roll out, Rock accused the Mia Mottley administration of not wanting people to do all the research they deemed necessary and weigh the pros and cons for themselves.

He said Government was instead trying to  employ scare tactics by telling people not to pay attention to certain information on social media.

“In terms of the vaccine, what am I going to do, give the vaccine a chance to kill me. I think we need to be more proactive and less reactive. If you are going to say to me give it a chance, I am going to say give me a chance. Let those who want to take it, volunteer,” said Rock.

“I think this government is very horrible to use scare tactics and fear tactics to get the people of Barbados to take this vaccine,” he said, adding that Rastafari here were prepared to formally protest if it came to that.

With several countries in Europe putting the use of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine on pause due to reports of associated blood clots recently, Rock said there continued to be too many unknowns.

According to him, the Rastafari community also feared that with talks of a “vaccine passport” in some countries, Government could soon make it mandatory for the vaccine to be taken in order to access certain services.

“We are also concerned about that because if you are saying the whole population does not need to be vaccinated what will happen to the 30 or 40 per cent?” he said.

“Our stance as it pertains to the Rastafari community is that we know the Government is selling people short in terms of providing enough information . . . We really want to know if there are going to be exemptions to the vaccine. Not everyone can take the vaccine. There are people who are going to have medical issues that they cannot take the vaccine. Will they be exempted or will they be forced out of society?” he said.

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