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Antigua and Barbuda legalizes marijuana for sacramental use by Rastafarians

Antigua and Barbuda recently became one of the first countries in the Caribbean to grant Rastafarians official permission to grow marijuana for sacramental purposes.

For decades, Rastafarians have been persecuted and imprisoned for using marijuana in their rituals. The situation changed in the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, which granted Rastafarians the right to cultivate the plant for sacramental purposes.

Ras Tashi, priest and member of the Ras Freeman Foundation
Ras Tashi, a priest and member of the Ras Freeman Foundation for the Unification of Rastafari, dons his late mother's robes and smokes a joint as he prepares for service in the tabernacle, Sunday, May 14, 2023, in Liberta , Antigua. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

Ras Kiyode Erasto, a priest of the Ras Freeman Foundation for the Unification of Rastafari, was bullied and discriminated against because of his faith while growing up in Antigua.

“There was a time when Rastafarian children couldn’t go to school,” he says, remembering that his mother had to cut off his dreads so he could go back.

The governments of Antigua and Barbuda have removed laws prohibiting the cultivation of marijuana for ceremonial purposes in an attempt to bring more respect to the Rastafarian people.

Antigua and Barbuda is a sovereign country made up of two islands. It gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1981, but remains a Commonwealth realm with Charles III as head of state.

“We are proud to be a government open to all and we believe that we must provide space for everyone, whatever their religion, whatever their faith, whatever their faith,” said Prime Minister Gaston Browne .

This change comes after the decriminalization of marijuana in 2018, then its legalization for medical purposes.

“We are freer now,” says Ras Tashi, another priest with the Ras Freeman Foundation for the Unification of Rastafari in Antigua. “We can come and plant any amount of marijuana on this land. And no police can come and seize a plant. We fight for these rights and we win them.

In the rastafarianism, marijuana use brings people closer to the divine. It is considered an essential medicinal and spiritual food source.

“We have come a long way from discrimination, castigation and violence against Rastafari people to a situation where they are fully accepted,” adds Prime Minister Browne.

Earlier this year, Mr Browne met with groups of Rastafari and granted them legal licenses from the National Medical Cannabis Authority to grow the plant for religious purposes.

This small nation of about 100 people has gone beyond the regional efforts of larger countries, and it hopes to lead by example on a global level.

“Little Antigua. According to the works, we organize centralization in the small islands of the Caribbean. And others see the strategy, learn the right method and use it so that all can benefit,” explains Ras Tashi, after the Sunday service at the Tabernacle.

As public opinion and politics around marijuana continue to shift around the world, Rastafarians in Antigua and Barbuda continue to push for broader relaxation and full legalization of marijuana. the plant.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne reads his apology to the Rastafari community on behalf of his government for decades of persecution and oppression. The letter was delivered to parliament on May 1, 2018. (AP Video: Jessie Wardarski)

Tags : Medical Cannabis and Legislation
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