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Saturday 20 April 2019
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Rastas: Give us a break

Consultation on marijuana decriminalisation

MESSAGE IS CLEAR: Claude Jeffers poses with his sign outside the National Academy 
for the Performing Arts after Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi hosted a consultation on 
decriminalising marijuana.   PHOTO BY JEFF MAYERS
MESSAGE IS CLEAR: Claude Jeffers poses with his sign outside the National Academy for the Performing Arts after Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi hosted a consultation on decriminalising marijuana. PHOTO BY JEFF MAYERS

COSTUME designer and devout Rastafarian, Claude Jeffers, yesterday pleaded with Attorney General, Faris Al-Rawi, to “give rastas a break.”

He made the plea yesterday during a public consultation on decriminalising marijuana, at the National Academy for the Performing Arts in Port of Spain

He said Rastafarians have been persecuted the most for the drug and, historically, they have paid it the most respect as they use it as a sacrament.

Jeffers said he was overwhelmed by the wealth of information Al-Rawi presented.

“All that talk and talk, it started to give me a headache,” Jeffers said, “is a good thing I smoke before I come.

“Marijuana is a holy herb... let us give it respect. When we (Rastafarians) deal with marijuana, we deal with it from a spiritual point of view, but we have been prosecuted, beaten, and persecuted for this herb.”

He told Al-Rawi he didn’t have a clue about how dangerous it is to be a rastaman.

“We have to go in dark places to get the herb... dangerous places. We pray and meditate with it. We seek wisdom, knowledge and understanding when we use it. So why don’t you give the Rasta a break?”

Jeffers also advised Al-Rawi to invest in the blossoming marijuana industry, saying “Wall Street is getting ready to take the marijuana from the black market to the stock market.”

Former attorney general Garvin Nicholas said he also supports decriminalisation.

“The laws which prohibit marijuana were placed for the protection of the people who may use it,” Nicholas said. “So if it is that we are imprisoning and incarcerating people to protect them, then the laws are clearly a waste of time.”

There were those opposed to decriminalisation who also voiced their opinions.

One, a recovering drug addict who said he has been sober for more than 35 years, advised government against rushing to decriminalise marijuana, because they would miss out on an opportunity to rehabilitate addicts.

“I have seen a flood of drivers coming to AA meetings just to get the letter to mitigate their cases, but several of them hear the message and decide to stay.”

During his presentation, Al-Rawi said 23 per cent of the prisoners who were on remand between 2013 and 2018 were held for marijuana-related offences. He added that over 53,000 narcotics matters were brought before the courts in the past eight years.

He also said between 2007 and 2018, more than 80,000 marijuana-related matters were filed at the magistrate’s court. He juxtaposed that information to findings on the rate at which courts handle cases. He said 40 per cent of the cases which are filed at the courts are disposed with each year.

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