Rastas want fees waived

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James – Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has committed to advocate for the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) waiving fees for small farmers, including Rastafarians interested in participating in the lucrative medical cannabis industry.

The senior Cabinet minister argued that for members of the Rastafarian community to be denied the privilege of partaking in the industry would be a travesty of justice.

“I will certainly raise it because it is a reasonable request and I will look at the regime designed to assist small farmers who can in fact be allowed to produce cannabis under a legal regime and sell it and be part of the economy. Because it certainly will be another major injustice, almost as bad as the brutalisation at Coral Gardens, if we start a cannabis industry and the small farmers and Rastafarians, in particular, cannot benefit from it,” Dr Chang said.

“...While I am not the minister directly responsible, I think I do have some influence in the Cabinet and I will work with (Culture) Minister (Olivia) Grange to see to what extent we can include the small farmers, and the Rastafarian community, in particular, can be made to participate efficiently in that industry,” said Dr Chang.

He was responding to Dr Michael Barnett's request for the CLA to waive fees for Rastafarian ganja farmers who want to be involved in the legal marijuana industry.

“The CLA could waive the licensing fee for those who want to enter the ganja industry, commercially. So I am just going to posit that as a suggestion, bearing in mind that is Rastafari who have borne the brunt and persecution for this so called dangerous drug,” Dr Barnett said.

They were addressing the “56th Commemoration of the Coral Gardens Atrocities” held at the Pitfour Nyahbinghi Centre in Granville, St James, on Good Friday.

Dr Barnett explained that in the aftermath of the atrocity of the Coral Gardens incident, the Government passed legislation to increase the sentence for people found guilty of ganja-related charges.

“They (authorities) extended the prison sentence. From 1961 up to 1963 it was one year maximum for possession or cultivation of ganja. On March 5, 1964, they made an amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act extending the prison time to between five and seven years if you were convicted for a spliff. And if convicted a second time it was seven years minimum and 10 years maximum,” Dr Barnett said.

“So they (Government) should also consider some sort of compensation for the persecution of ganja. Yes, even though, we have been granted sacrificial rights as a result to the amendment of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2015,” said Dr Barnett.

What Rastafarians call “Bad Friday” stemmed from an incident which triggered widespread beating, humiliation, degradation, and imprisonment on Good Friday in 1963.

The police action followed an incident when individuals wearing beards, typical of Rastafarians, attacked a police station with which they had an issue. Two of the attackers were shot and killed by the police.

Following the Good Friday incident, members of the Rastafarian faith were frequently hunted, beaten and thrown behind bars by the police.


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