Kurt Campbell reports…
Some sections of the local Rastafarian community are threatening to withhold support from political parties in the upcoming May 11 regional and general elections if individual platforms and policies do not speak favorably to the decriminalization of marijuana in Guyana.
During a press conference on Thursday, Leaders of at least three Rastafarian organisations boasted of the growth of the community in Guyana and said the time has come for political parties to address their many concerns seriously.
In keeping with the pressure to be mounted on the two main parties contesting the elections, a marijuana decriminalization rally is being planned for April 26. President of the Guyana Rastafarian Council Ras Simeon explained that the rally was “for those who use, who have suffered or who knows someone who has suffered or who has a general interest in sending a message to the political persons that the issue is of concern.”
The Council, along with other support organisations believe their collective membership is within the thousands and enough to make a difference at the elections and on the political scene post May 11.
“We as a Rastafarian community has come of age to realize we have power… we should use that power to influence the political agenda and have our issues and concerns addressed,” he encouraged his fellow brothers and sisters.
The Rastafarian leaders believe that their influence among the citizenry ought not to be taken for granted since man have adopted aspects of the Rastafarian culture. This, the leaders believe, should also be taken into consideration by politicians. Already meetings were held with the APNU+AFC coalition and the Rastafarian community expressed satisfaction with the responses and assurances given by the coalition to address the issue of marijuana decriminalization.
The APNU + AFC coalition is on record committing to a human review of laws dealing with marijuana with the intention to decriminalize its use while the ruling People’s Progressive Party Civic does not seem too inclined. The PPP/C has made it clear that the issue of marijuana will not be used as a vote getting in the 2015 elections, having shot down the call for decriminalization in the past.
The Rastafarian leaders claim they have written to government officials seeking an engagement on the issue but insist that there will be no support for parties that are unwilling to review laws in this regard.
They await the publication of the parties’ manifestos to see where their issues are represented. The Council pointed to Jamaica where the cabinet recently approved a bill that legalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana in that country and called on the Guyana government and other political to follow suit. It means that for the first time the country’s Rastafarian community, which uses the herb for religious purposes, could be able to smoke it legally.
The local community has given assurances that the call for decriminalization was so that the herb can be used for medicinal and sacramental purposes more freely and not to encourage abuse. CARICOM Heads of Government have agreed to set up a commission that will examine social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the Region.
Filed: 2nd April, 2015