Antigua and Barbuda became one of the first in the Caribbean to allow Rastafarians to cultivate and consume cannabis for sacramental use.
Rastafarians have been pushing for years to have cannabis legalized in the country. In 2021, followers “demanded a broader relaxation to end persecution and ensure freedom of worship.”
For decades, many Rastafarians have been imprisoned and racially and religiously profiled by law enforcement because of their cannabis use. Authorities in Antigua and Barbuda, an island country of just over 90,000 people, have sought to rectify the situation.
“We are freer now,” Ras Tashi, a member of the Ras Freeman Foundation for the Unification of Rastafarians, was quoted as saying by theAssociated Press.
This change in the law comes five years after Antigua and Barbuda decriminalized cannabis. It could also cause a domino effect in the Caribbean where other Rastafari communities are trying to assert their rights.
The Associated Press reported last week that “Rastafarians are pushing elsewhere for similar religious protections” and that some “believe Antigua and Barbuda law could boost those efforts in around the world, at a time when public opinion and politics continue to evolve in favor of the medical and recreational use of cannabis”.
Under new law in Antigua and Barbuda, the island’s government now allows “non-believers” to grow four cannabis plants each and possess up to 15 grams.
“We believe in giving everyone a place at the table, regardless of religion,” said Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
“Just as we have recognized other religions, it is absolutely important for us to ensure that the Rastafarian faith is also recognized…to recognize their constitutional right to worship and to use cannabis as a sacrament.”
“We are proud to be an inclusive government and we believe that we must give everyone a place at the negotiating table, regardless of their religion, denomination or faith”, justified Gaston Browne.
“The Rastafari movement preaches brotherly love. And I’m talking about the purity of religion. We know that there are people who call themselves Rastafarian, but who do not necessarily practice Rastafarian values. But if we stick strictly to Rastafarian values, we see that he advocates brotherly love and good health; even his plant-based diet can benefit all of humanity,” Browne said.