ST.KITTS-NEVIS RASTAFARIAN COMMUNITY CONTINUE TO HAVE A VOICE IN THE SHAPING OF LANDMARK CANNABIS LEGISLATION AND ESTABLISHMENT OF CANNABIS INDUSTRY

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Meeting of members of the Cannabis Core Committee. (L-R): Mr. Melvin Marcelo Agard; Chair of the Organization of Rastafari in Unity, Delroy ‘Ras I-Roy’ Pinney; Ras Eli X Freeman; Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, and Chairman of the Cannabis Core Committee, Dr. Wycliffe Baird.

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They are being proactive and are ensuring that members of the Rastafarian community continue to play an active role in the shaping of policies, particularly as it relates to the changing of laws on the use of marijuana/cannabis for religious, medicinal and recreational purposes. The government stated that it would like to promote cannabis education in relation to Rastafarianism and other religious practices.

This has been a conscious effort by the Team Unity administration to ensure that the position of the Rastafarian community was taken into consideration since the decision was made to garner the views of the public on the use of marijuana in the Federation through the establishment of a National Marijuana Commission. In this regard, Samande “Ras Iya” Reid was invited to serve as a member of that Commission for the 15-month period.

A Cannabis Core Committee of experts, led by Dr. Wycliffe Baird, has now been put in place to further advance the process of establishing a marijuana industry in St. Kitts and Nevis and to advise on the necessary systems to make the industry a real and substantial one that contributes to the health and wellness of the people and economy. It is to be appreciated as a welcome move that committees are being formed to discuss the numerous benefits marijuana can bring to the general public in different dimensions like holistic healthcare & lifestyle, growth of the economy plus creation of jobs, to mention a few. Countries like Canada are already steps ahead in cannabis-related reforms, with making the substance legally available to all citizens and in all forms such as weed concentrates, herb, oil, topicals, etc. They are being used for medical as well as recreational purposes.

Again, a number of Rastafarians are represented on this committee, including Certified Medical Cannabis Expert, Mr. Marcus Ramkissoon; Chair of the Organization of Rastafari in Unity, Delroy ‘Ras I-Roy’ Pinney; Mr. Melvin Marcelo Agard, and Ras Eli X Freeman.

It is hoped that the committee will be able to provide advice and guidance on everything from the different strains of marijuana to the different uses for this fascinating herb. Marijuana cultivation is also a huge part of the cannabis industry and therefore the committee will be able to consult with cannabis growers on topics such as the best way to grow the seeds that you can buy here so that their plants can grow to be potent and healthy.

While speaking at the first meeting of the Cannabis Core Committee on Tuesday, July 30, Mr. Agard noted that it is important that members of the Rastafarian committee dialogue regularly with high governmental officials on matters of importance to them, such as the use of marijuana as part of their religious practice.

Speaking directly to Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Agard said, “I hope for more dialogue in whatever way, even if it is meeting with us and having more conversations for us to be better prepared as the process moves forward, because by hearing from us more you would have a better understanding of our position.”

Prime Minister Harris agreed, while noting that “we would want you to continue to work with us in a public way in terms of the public education on the matter.”

“I think it would be helpful to have a panel with the Rastafarian brothers, the Ministers of Government and the experts all sitting down and talking about where we’re at and where we need to go and I think that will help,” the prime minister added.

Dr. Harris reiterated that the road to the decriminalization of marijuana in the country and the creation of a cannabis industry are being done through a phased process and reminded the Rastafarians of their role in this regard.

He said, “We are hoping through the involvement of your group to further refine [the Cannabis Bill, 2019] before it comes again to the Parliament and we have brought in a group of experts…because what the Government has sought to do is to bring the best possible minds available within the region, within St. Kitts and Nevis and beyond – persons who would have had some input in the development of a cannabis industry or have expertise in the area to come help us adopt our own system.”

Prime Minister Harris has also recently held discussions with a group of Rastafarians at his Government Headquarters office where the views and concerns of Rastafarians living in St. Kitts and Nevis were discussed.

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