Categorized | National News

Rastas Willing to Drop Marijuana Lawsuit

Ethiopia Black Africa International Congress Honourable Priest Ethelbert Harrison said although the organization filed a lawsuit against the government relating to the use of marijuana, the lawsuit could be avoided if the government would meet with congress members and address the concerns of the Rastafarian community.

“We would love to still have a dialogue with them [the government] and we would drop the charges if it’s favourable for us.  Yes, we would,” Harrison told The Bahama Journal recently. 

“At the same time, we want them [the government] to know that we are not asking for nothing.  This is our rights that we are demanding from them.”

Last week, a writ was filed by attorneys representing the plaintiffs, The Ethiopia Black Africa International Congress.

According to the writ, “The plaintiffs claim that they have had their right to the protection of the privacy of their persons and homes breached by members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force by searching for the sacrament which Rastafari can lawfully cultivate, possess and supply pursuant to the right guaranteed by Articles 15 and 21 of the Constitution.

“The plaintiff further claim that their rights guaranteed by Articles 15 and 26 to practice their religion and to be free from discriminatory treatment have been breached by members of the Bahamas Department of Corrections and its predecessor Her Majesty’s Prison in the cutting of Rastafari locks while Rastafari was serving a sentence for cultivating, possessing or supply his sacrament.”

Harrison said the lawsuit is not intended to create panic throughout the country, but while the Rastafarian community awaits answers from the government and the Marijuana Commission, rastas are being persecuted. 

“We’re still being oppressed,” he said.  “Our doors and homes are still being invaded by police over the whole situation.  So we are still not living a decent, respectable life.”

Harrison explained that for a very longtime a negative stigma has been associated with the use of marijuana and rastas, where they’re wrongfully perceived as drug dealers.

“Many of us have families now with rastas somewhere in your family and you’re able to observe the Rastafarians in your family and see that they’re not criminals,” Harrison explained.  “We could look at the newspapers, how quick they are to demonize Rastafari in The Bahamas and the world at large.

“So these type of things we looking to stop.  We’re hoping for people to really see the facts and the truth and the oppression we go through in big and small ways, high and low places.”

However, Harrison explained that if the government isn’t open to meeting with the Rastafarian community anymore, they would continue to pursue the lawsuit.  

“We don’t have no fear in this,” Harrison said. “The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory. This is only the start of the Rastafari seeking our international fundamental justice and rights.”

Adding to Harrison’s concerns about the Rastafarian community was Ethiopia Black Africa International Congress Honourable Priest Jevon Thompson, who said it is now the government’s turn to make a decision.

“It’s a chess game that has been going on for the past 40 years,” Thompson said.  “The game is by no way over.  They [the government] have to make a move and we prepared to make our move, as you could see we already filed a writ.  We are going through with our movement too.  It is up to them to play their hand.”

He expressed his concerns over Rastafarians being ostracized, ridiculed and infringed upon.

 “Basically, ones still really don’t have an idea of what we are really about,” Thompson said.  “We are labeled as a cult. A lot of derogatory terms are used when referring to Rastafari.  Rastafari represents the whole community, from the poor have not to the rich and the wealthy.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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