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Antigua becomes first Caribbean country to allow Rastafari to grow cannabis

The PM said he would like to work with the Rastafari community to develop the cannabis industry and in agriculture to combat food insecurity

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ANTIGUA AND Barbuda has become the first Caribbean country to grant the Rastafari community official sacramental authorisation to grow cannabis. Last week, members of Antigua and Barbuda’s Rastafari community were presented with their legal authorisation during a historic signing ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office. Prime Minister Gaston Browne praised the Rastafari community for their resilience over the years and granted religious and cultural group the landmark authorising under the 2018 Cannabis Act.

At a special ceremony, renowned Rastafari leaders, Glasford “King Sagyefo” Mack of the Nyabinghi Theocracy Church, Kiyode Erasto Straker of the RasFreeman Foundation for the Unification of Rastafari, and Kenrick Lloyd of the Wan Love Chant were presented with certificates by the Medicinal Cannabis Authority (MCA), which will legally allow them the right to cultivate cannabis for religious purposes.

“I believe, as a faith-based institution, that your organisation should be respected by all,” the Prime Minister said.

“We have adopted many European and non-European religions and we have a Pan-African religion … and instead of embracing it, we have sought to destroy it … I want to encourage you to stand your ground [and] continue to exercise that resilience.”

The PM said there needs to be more collaboration between his government and Rastafari community in areas like developing the cannabis industry and in agriculture – to help ensure food security on the twin islands.

“One of the areas that we are very pleased … the Rastafari community is well vested, is agriculture and I am hoping that we can have a stronger relationship with the various organisations … to increase food production,” Mr Browne said.

He also added he would like the community to assist where they can in preventing youth in Antigua and Barbuda from using cannabis.

“The use of cannabis by the youth is strictly prohibited by law and we also want to appeal to the Rastafari community to help us to uphold the law and the standards that the government has put in place to protect our youth,” he added.

The new changes make Antigua and Barbuda the first country in the Caribbean to document the right of Rastafari to use cannabis as a sacrament.

At the presentation, MCA Director Regis Burton hailed the occasion as an important milestone for the Rasta community.

“We know that the history of cannabis has been a long journey and the history of Rastafari has been a tedious one, and we are here to acknowledge the rights … of the Rastafari community,” Mr Burton said.

MCA Chairman Daven Joseph acknowledged the significant of the sacramental certificates not just for Antigua and Barbuda, but the rest of the Caribbean.