WITH legislation for marijuana legalisation near completion, Rastafarian priest Rithmond McKinney is urging the government to “respect and protect” his community’s sacramental right of cannabis possession.
After assuming office, the Davis administration promised to present the marijuana legalisation to Parliament before the end of 2022, but that deadline was missed.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Ryan Pinder said legislation for marijuana legalisation is nearly completed, however, he was unable to provide a timeline as to when it will be presented to Parliament.
He said there were several matters with the proposed legislation that the government was addressing based on recommendations it received from health officials and other stakeholders.
Mr Pinder had previously said that the government intended to advance comprehensive legislation to regulate a medical cannabis industry and a separate framework for industrial hemp.
As the Rastafarian community still faces ongoing legal changes to have the criminal records of its members expunged for what they believe are wrongful cannabis convictions, Mr McKinney called on the Bahamian government to do what is right not only for his community, but the country at large.
In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, Mr McKinney, of the local Rastafarian Bobo Shanti tribe, remains hopeful that his community’s sacramental rights will be given legal protection, saying that it is also considered to be a constitutional right.
“I said the government did say the first of this new year, we still give them about two more months before the first quarter over, as you know the first quarter is between March and April so we still have to hear what they have to say,” he told The Tribune yesterday.
He added: “But I also said that considering the Rastafarian sacramental rights, we didn’t see nothing about that, but we know for a fact that the sacramental right is the constitutional rights, they don’t need to table a legislation on that, they just need to respect and protect the Rasta man’s sacramental right.”
Mr McKinney also reiterated the desire to have a stake in the proposed cannabis industry.
He also voiced his support for the current administration by commending the Davis administration for moving in the right direction regarding marijuana reform.
“We commend the government for making the first step to regularise the cannabis industry as a medical and industrial industry,” he said yesterday.
“Because it’s a lot of revenue and income to our people, and also (it would) help with employment because you know people always want a job so we feel as if that’s a good step.
“But, of course, we are still optimistic and we are asking the government to make sure that Rastafarians can be a stakeholder, also when it comes to the medical and industrial industry.”
When interviewed by The Tribune yesterday, Mr McKinney insisted he expected the government to follow the tracks of Antigua and Barbuda, whose leaders have previously issued formal apologies for the long-standing oppression inflicted on the Rastafarian community due to their sacramental use of the plant.