Rastafarians in Saint Lucia may have to follow the footsteps of their counterparts in Saint Kitts and Nevis, who may now have the right to smoke marijuana in the privacy of their homes following several significant happenings in that country.
The first, the introduction of a Cannabis Bill by the government of St Kitts and Nevis to regulate the use of marijuana for religious, medicinal and recreational purposes, and also this month, a high court case being won by a Rastafarian pertaining to the cultivation of marijuana for recreational purposes.
The case against the Government of Saint Kitts and Nevis was brought forward by Samande “RasIya” Reid, who represented himself against the Attorney General.
According to Burnet Sealy, Chairman of the Caribbean Rastafarian Organization (CRO), in an interview with this reporter, the landmark court ruling is not just for Rastafarians, but for anyone who uses marijuana for religious purposes, or in the privacy of their homes.
According to Sealy, who is also a member of the Iyanola Council for the advancement of Rastafarians, if the Government of Saint Lucia does not amend related marijuana laws, they will have no choice but to follow the footsteps of the Rastafarians in Saint Kitts and bring their cases before the courts.
Sealy, who lauded the stance the Rastafarian community of Saint Kitts took against their government, said amending the laws regarding marijuana in Saint Lucia was a campaign promise made a few years ago.
“If the government continues along that path, we will take it before the courts in order to have the Dangerous Drug Act amended,” Sealy said, adding that his only concern is that if the matter is taken to court it may be dragged to frustrate them.
Sealy recalled that while on the campaign trail in 2016, both the ruling United Workers Party (UWP) and the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) had made promises to amend the law as it relates to cannabis. He added that representatives even spoke about expunging the records of those persons incarcerated for having small amounts of marijuana in their possession.
At least one government minister of the present administration, Minister with Responsibility for Social Justice and Local Government Lenard Montoute, has spoken in favour of wiping clean records of minor cannabis related offences in light of the shifting currents where the topic is concerned.
However, Sealy says the Rastafarian community has in the past been asked by government to furnish them with more information on cannabis before it can amend the laws to facilitate them.
“What information?” he asked, adding that over the years they have provided government officials and members of the public with detailed information regarding cannabis.
“We have been in consultation with government for a while….and up to today we have not given up,” Sealy said.
As it relates to the raids police carry out, Sealy said it is of no solace to them.
“The police still destroy marijuana plantations and who knows what happens to the plants that are seized…” he said.
In the meantime, Sealy is making a clarion call to government to make good on its promise and amend the Dangerous Drug Act, adding that time is running out.
“What is required is that the laws be changed…” Sealy stressed.
He lamented that so far, he has not seen any sign of urgency on the part of government to change the laws.
According to Sealy, the recent pronouncement by Minister Lenard Montoute that the decision to deal with the marijuana issue is not dead is of no comfort to the Rastafarian community.