Rastafarian Community Will Continue to Have a Voice in the Shaping of Landmark Cannabis Legislation

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, August 01, 2019 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) – The St. Kitts and Nevis Government is ensuring that members of the Rastafarian community continue to play an active role in the shaping of policies, particularly as it relates to the changing of laws on the use of marijuana/cannabis for religious, medicinal and recreational purposes.

This has been a conscious effort by the Team Unity administration to ensure that the position of the Rastafarian community was taken into consideration since the decision was made to garner the views of the public on the use of marijuana in the Federation through the establishment of a National Marijuana Commission. In this regard, Samande “Ras Iya” Reid was invited to serve as a member of that Commission for the 15-month period.

A Cannabis Core Committee of experts, led by Dr. Wycliffe Baird, has now been put in place to further advance the process of establishing a marijuana industry in St. Kitts and Nevis and to advise on the necessary systems to make the industry a real and substantial one that contributes to the health and wellness of the people and economy.

Again, a number of Rastafarians are represented on this committee, including Certified Medical Cannabis Expert, Mr. Marcus Ramkissoon; Chair of the Organization of Rastafari in Unity, Delroy ‘Ras I-Roy’ Pinney; Mr. Melvin Marcelo Agard, and Ras Eli X Freeman.

While speaking at the first meeting of the Cannabis Core Committee on Tuesday, July 30, Mr. Agard noted that it is important that members of the Rastafarian committee dialogue regularly with high governmental officials on matters of importance to them, such as the use of marijuana as part of their religious practice.

Speaking directly to Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Agard said, “I hope for more dialogue in whatever way, even if it is meeting with us and having more conversations for us to be better prepared as the process moves forward, because by hearing from us more you would have a better understanding of our position.”

Prime Minister Harris agreed, while noting that “we would want you to continue to work with us in a public way in terms of the public education on the matter.”

“I think it would be helpful to have a panel with the Rastafarian brothers, the Ministers of Government and the experts all sitting down and talking about where we’re at and where we need to go and I think that will help,” the prime minister added.

Dr. Harris reiterated that the road to the decriminalization of marijuana in the country and the creation of a cannabis industry are being done through a phased process and reminded the Rastafarians of their role in this regard.

He said, “We are hoping through the involvement of your group to further refine [the Cannabis Bill, 2019] before it comes again to the Parliament and we have brought in a group of experts…because what the Government has sought to do is to bring the best possible minds available within the region, within St. Kitts and Nevis and beyond – persons who would have had some input in the development of a cannabis industry or have expertise in the area to come help us adopt our own system.”

Prime Minister Harris has also recently held discussions with a group of Rastafarians at his Government Headquarters office where the views and concerns of Rastafarians living in St. Kitts and Nevis were discussed.

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