BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Friday 2nd August 2019) – Though described by government to be a historic day, the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) 2019 Bill amended this week in the National Assembly does not sit well with members of the Rastafari community.
“They did not go into parliament and put anything that Rastafari agree to and I have to make that very clear to the general public. The Bill that was passed, Rastafari did not agree to anything in that except for that if you offending somebody smoking in public that is wrong because you don’t want to be offending somebody when you’re doing something.”
So said well-known Rastafarian Ras Sankofa Maccabbee when he called into Freedom FM (106.5) during the opposition St.Kitts-Nevis Labour Party weekly-sponsored ‘Issues’ Programme while the hot topic was being discussed on Wednesday 31st July- the day that the Bill was changed up.
“They had 90 days to deal with this matter and they were still rushing because they didn’t work on it properly and they didn’t consider it something of importance,” he also expressed.
In May this year, Maccabbee won a civil suit case 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.
As a result- coming out of the high court ruling presided over by Justice Eddy Ventose- the public was informed about a 90-day period for the laws had to be amended and reflected with an update regarding Cannabis Bill as it relates to areas such as privacy and the right to use for religious purposes since parts of the Drugs Act of 1986 are too general.
Speaking in Parliament this week, the Attorney General Vincent ‘Juicy’ Byron Jr. said: “The Bill is intended to be the very first step in a complex process in seeking to strike a proper balance within our society and to make laws that promote peace, order and good governance.”
Additionally, he outlined that “the government would continue the extensive consultation process and the work on bolstering the legislative framework to provide for an effective mechanism which would seek to secure the rights of all the people in the Federation.”
The proposed amount for personal use is 15 grams of marijuana. As gathered regarding other areas of the Bill, as it pertains to cultivation, it is intended that interested individuals will have to get permission from the respective government minister(s) and also smoking in front of children is a no.
As part of his opening remarks when he called into the radio station to publicly air his views, Maccabbee who is father of his Rastafarian household told that he was “disappointed in what took place yesterday in parliament” while further sharing that “I am very emotional right now.”
According to Maccabbee: “The second meeting we had with the AG [Attorney General] now was basically the day before Parliament. I thought really the meeting was about something else but when we reached there, the man gave us the Bill that they started to read. He said ‘Yes, we are putting in this Bill but this ain’t going be the fullness of the Bill but we need to get this in because the court gave us a directive to out in the Bill at a particular time and the 90 days gonna be up before a particular time so we have to put forward something to the general public’ but later on they might have to amend certain areas of the bill in the future or add other things.”
He also highlighted: “I want the general public to know that as Rastafari we had two consultations with the Attorney General; the first consultation, we had to practically beg them for that consultation even though the judge asked them to have consultation with us with me particularly and the whole national because they needed to do certain things. They needed to register us as a way of life, religion, spirituality and certain other things we had to do.”
“We had to send letters to them, we had to even tell them it wasn’t appropriate going to the parliament without consulting the opposition leader about the information from the CMO [Chief Medical Officer] report,” he added.
Before Maccabbee called into the programme, opposition Senator Nigel Carty disclosed that the opposition was not notified about a change in time for the sitting of parliament that day which saw the amended Cannabis Bill being wrapped up by its mover Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris.
He reflected that around 5 O’ clock the day before (Tuesday), the parliament broke and it was informed that the session would have reconvened the following morning at 10 O’ clock.
Carty said when he along with his colleagues Konris Maynard, Marcella Liburd “got there, we were told that parliament was postponed until 1:30 this afternoon. Around 1:20 this afternoon, while I was at my office preparing to go to the parliament, somebody Drew to my attention that Prime Minister Harris, the mover of the bill was on the floor wrapping up the bill, closing out the debate therefore precluding any further debate on this bill which is supposed to be one of the most critical piece of information before the parliament.”