Members of the Rastafarian community have followed through on a threat to sue the government for the right to use marijuana in their religious sacrament.
They are seeking damages and the expunction of marijuana related convictions from their criminal records.
Attorneys for the group filed the writ yesterday, naming Attorney General Carl Bethel as the defendant.
“The plaintiffs claim that they have had their right to the protection of the privacy of their persons and homes breached by the members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force by searching for the sacrament which Rastafari can lawfully cultivate, possess and supply pursuant to the right guaranteed by Articles 15 and 21 of the constitution,” the writ reads.
“The plaintiffs further claim that their rights guaranteed by Articles 15 and 26 to practice their religion and to be free from discriminatory treatment have been breached by members of the Bahamas Department of Corrections and its predecessor Her Majesty’s Prison in the cutting of Rastafari locks while Rastafari was serving a sentence for cultivating, possessing or supply his sacrament.
“The plaintiffs claim that all executive acts taken pursuant to the Dangerous Drugs Act or prison rules that hinder Rastafari in practicing his livity or positively infringed on it by the cutting of Rastafari locks breached the rights guaranteed and protected by Articles 15, 21, 22 and 26 of the Constitution.”
The Rastas are seeking compensatory and vindicatory damages for the breach of their rights, as well as interest on the damages.
They are requesting a declaration that the cutting of their locks while in prison violates their right to practice religion and discriminates against them contrary to the constitution.
They are also seeking a declaration that the search and arrest of their homes and person, on suspicion of marijuana offenses, violates their right to privacy and right to practice religion.
Additionally, the plaintiffs are asking for declarations that from 1963 to date, Rastas always had the right to practice their religion and use marijuana; that Section 3 of the Dangerous Drugs Act is unconstitutional and inconsistent with the constitution; and that any executive action that hindered them from their right to practice their religion is a breach of their rights guaranteed by the constitution.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications