Marijuana Commission Co-Chair Bishop Simeon Hall yesterday advised the Rastafarian community to hold off on its lawsuit against the government, asserting they should wait until the commission has completed its study.
According to a June 3 letter sent to Attorney General Carl Bethel and Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands from Munroe & Associates, attorneys for The Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress, the government has been given 10 working days to respond or legal action will commence.
“I respect their position as a ‘religious group,’” Hall told The Nassau Guardian.
“My unsolicited advice would be for them to wait until the commission is completed in its task to survey the views of the Bahamian people. That’s basically what we are mandated to do. At the end of that task we will make recommendations to the government. It is ultimately the government [which] is going to implement the positions and the position of marijuana.”
Hall added, “…While I would say they should wait, I would also wish to affirm that Rastafarians are human beings first regardless of their style, their looks, their methods of worship or even whom they worship.
“I prefer to see people as human beings, with an inalienable right to do within understanding as they please. Now, I do not subscribe to the Rastafarian way but I do affirm their right to believe as they do.”
Hall said all groups, including Rastafarians and businesses, should wait to see what the government does regarding marijuana before selling or using it.
“I do not know which way this thing might go,” Hall said.
On Thursday, Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, said he wrote to Sands about making arrangements for the Rastafarian community to cultivate, possess and supply marijuana as a sacrament to their worshippers.
“I wrote him on behalf of the Rastafarian Church because the consumption of Indian hemp is a sacrament to them, just like Eucharist is a sacrament to Anglicans and Catholics; and just as Anglicans and Catholics give underage children liquor during communion and that’s permitted because that’s a part of our faith,” Munroe said.
However, Hall said yesterday that the request and possible lawsuit will open “the door for the rest of the persons”.
“You see, even if you use it for ceremonial purposes, how far do you go?” he asked.
“If you use it for medicinal purposes, how far do you go? Sooner or later, we have to come to recreational.”
The legalization of marijuana in The Bahamas has been a longstanding issue, but was reignited as a hot button topic last year as other countries made major legislative shifts on the matter.
Following recommendations by the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana, which presented its report on the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana in the region, the government approved the formation of The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana.
Just last month, the commission was given an additional three months to examine the issue of marijuana in The Bahamas and make recommendations to the government.
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