Rastafarians want rep on cannabis licensing authority

Rev Kwame Kamau speaks at the rally at Woodford Square in Port of Spain on Sunday.   - JEFF K MAYERS
Rev Kwame Kamau speaks at the rally at Woodford Square in Port of Spain on Sunday. - JEFF K MAYERS

A call is being made to the government to ensure the Rastafarian community is represented on the cannabis licensing authority which is to be established when the Cannabis Control Bill 2019 is passed in the Parliament.

Rastafarians are also calling for waivers, a space to host conferences and clinics, grants, and access to land for growing marijuana.

At a “cannabis appreciation” rally at Woodford Square, hosted by the All Mansions of Rastafari on Sunday, African reparations minister Rev Kwame Kamau said, “That board (licensing authority) will never be properly constituted if the number one proponent of cannabis – the Rastafarian community, does not have representation. I call upon the Attorney General and the Prime Minister of TT to (ensure) that.

“That board would not be complete if there isn’t grassroots representation and, when we say that, we mean Afro-centric representation. We know within one decade, over 80,000 people were arrested for cannabis consumption or possession.”

While he commends the government for the decriminalisation of marijuana up to 30 grammes, he said it must now give a “clear and unambiguous direction on how the persons who were convicted of possession or use of marijuana can have their records cleared.”

He said this has mostly affected the Afro-Trinidadian community and has cost taxpayers millions.

“It costs the State, according to the AG, $25,000 to keep one prisoner incarcerated. The same State that won’t pay CEPEP and URP workers a good $3000. We call on the government to recognise that harm has been done to the Afro community.”

He also voiced concerns about the process to obtain a license for industrial and medical purposes.

“Without coming together and forming cooperatives, without banding together in solidarity, you will benefit zero from the industry to come.”

Kamau also called on religious ministers to stand with Rastafarians in their continued fight for “responsible legislative reform,” because “cannabis is as essential to Christianity as it is essential to Rastafari. On a day like today, the Jesus Christ that you say you serve, he would have been standing along the All Mansions of Rastafari today. Where are you pastor? Where are you apostle? Where are you minister?”

All Mansions of Rastafari secretary Glenroy Halls, also known as Bongo Grease, made a plea to the government to protect the Rastafarian community and include representatives from the group at the joint select commitee when the Cannabis Control Bill is being examined.

Unlike the rally in October 2018 where many people crowded Woodford Square calling of the drug to be legalised, Sunday’s event was sparsely attended with less than 100 people showing up.

Marijuana was decriminalised on December 23, 2019. And although it is illegal to smoke it in public, the scent of the drug pervaded the atmosphere. Anyone caught doing so is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine of $250,000 and to imprisonment for five years.

On sale were several marijuana-infused items for sale including cookies, wines and sweets.

The law also allows each home to grow up to four marijuana plants.


"Rastafarians want rep on cannabis licensing authority"

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