BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Friday 30th August 2019) -Two well-known members of the Rastafari community in St.Kitts-Nevis, Ras Sankofa Maccabbee and Delroy ‘Ras I-Roy’ Pinney, have disclosed that in light of the unsatisfied view of the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) 2019 Bill amended earlier this month, a follow-up visit to the court is being thought about.
This media house spoke with the Rastas last Friday afternoon (23rd August) during the annual sensitisation march and rally organised by the Rastafari Nyabinghi Theocracy Order in partnership with the Organisation of Rastafari in Unity (ORU).
‘WHY IS MARIJUANA ILLEGAL’, ‘LEGAL MARIJUANA IS REDUCTION IN CRIME’, ‘MARIJUANA IS MUCH LESS HARMFUL TO THE BODY COMPARED TO CIGARETTES AND ALCOHOL’ , ‘JUSTIC IS A PRODUCT OF EDUCATION. IF WE ARE EDUCATED WHY DENY US OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS’ and ‘STOP BEAT UP RASTAMAN FOR MARIJUANA’ were some of the placard messages.
“This year now is a little more special in the march because we won our constitutional case in the court and so people come out in numbers to support the victory but we still also marching because we’re not so satisfied with the changing of the Drug Act to fit the way that the court presented because we still feel that there is still some form of infringement on our constitutional rights,” said Ras Sankofa who had a sign which read ‘Ganja is a plant made by the Most High’.
It was his civil suit won in May this year against the Attorney General and Commissioner of Police after he was arrested in 2012 for marijuana possession with intent to supply and also cultivation for which he was imprisoned for a month and fine $5000 which led to Justice Eddy Ventose’s ruling for a 90-day timeframe for the government to make changes to the law.
Ras Sankofa added: “For example, if you’re saying I could only have four or five plants, supposed all the plants come male trees that wouldn’t help us so much with sacramental because in sacramental we use the herb for meditation and there is other reasons still as well; that’s just one. If you’re found just walking in an area and you are close to a school even if you do it not intentionally, the fines generally still on the marijuana are too heavy.”
According to him, the bill needs to be adjusted.
“…the Bill itself how they present it, it doesn’t have enough clarity and it is still a hindrance because you have to ask a [government] minister to actually grow the plant. They should have give us a certain amount of plants …for those adult users in a household; it should be maybe people and not household because how people living, a lot of people living together so if you just say it for the house, the other person might not be covered and only five plants in a yard. It (the bill) have to go back and be more orderly because, it’s too little bit [in the amount of plants per household].”
He highlighted that marijuana is not just used for smoking.
“We don’t just smoke herb too; they don’t understand that. We use herb for so many different things. Fifteen grams cannot suffice to true I is Rasta for even just a basic human livity because we’re not using the plant just to smoke. They are thinking it one way because of how they grow up but they don’t understand our life. We try to sit at the table with them and we explain to them all these things and they completely ignored most of our things. The only thing they basically agreed upon was is that people shouldn’t really smoke in the public freely like that because it could offend another person, and the Constitution says that if some of these laws offend another person then you can’t really do that so it’s basically that what we’re marching for right now and if we’re not so satisfied, we will consider going back to court but we’re still thinking about all these things because I don’t really like the court house but we give thanks still for the judge and lawyers that helped to assist and we thank everybody who assisted in the matter, and we give thanks to the Almighty Jah Rastafari.”
Meanwhile ORU Chairperson Ras I-Roy from the neighbouring sister island, too shared his disappointment regarding the recent amended bill. He carried a placard which read ‘NO GANJA- NO VOTE!!! FREE DE HERB. NO PENALITIES!!!’ with a photo of a leaf which listed-food, recreation, religions, human rights, economics, medicine and textiles.
“It’s more fire on babylon at this time you know! Babylon could just watch it with the jokey drug amendment …it’s not satisfactory for us as Rastafari. No laws could be changed in SKB unless you consult with Rastafari in respect to the herb so I and I have to continue fighting until we get proper (changes to make it) satisfactory otherwise we are taking it back to the court because the judge ordered them to adjust the Drug Act so as to accommodate Rastafari! Without hindrance, I and I should enjoy I and I sacrament and all the restrictions and all the fines are hindrances to I and I freedom so I and I not satisfied and I say free up de herb. Rastafari!”
Well-known community and political activist Dr. Terrance Drew, who is the Chairman of the opposition St.Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, joined in on the march citing that it is a “human rights issue.”
He had two placards that read: ‘RASTAS HAVE HUMAN RIGHTS TOO’ and ‘THE MARIJUANA ISSUE IS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE’.
As gathered, Dr. Drew was involved in Ras Sankofa’s case as an expert medical witness where, through his writings to the court, he asked the Judge to take a balance view at the issue of cannabis and the Rastafarian community.
Following the march, a rally was held at the Independence Square which included speeches and presentations from various members of the community.