Chuck promises Rastas speedy approval of ganja requests

BY HORACE HINES Observer staff reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 11, 2016

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NEGRIL, Westmoreland —Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has moved to assure members of the Rastafarian faith that their requests to transport ganja to be smoked as a religious sacrament will be granted expeditiously.


This follows a demonstration late last month by irate Rastafarians in front of the Barnett Street Police Station in the wake of the seizure by police of 10 pounds of the weed from a member of the faith.


"Where, unfortunately, a lot of you (Rastas) are getting into trouble is to get it (ganja) from where you buy it, or where you grow it, to the temple or to your home. You need an exemption. If you are going to transport it at all, just write me to get the exemption. I will approve it within hours," the justice minister guaranteed.


"I know it is a strict law and you may not agree with it, but it is the law. So let us just act under the rule of the law. You need your exemption? Write me, I approve it, you have the exemption, so when the police officer stops you, you have the exemption [and he] can’t trouble you.


"Once you are a Rasta you can smoke your weed without any problem. You can also smoke it in the temple," Chuck told the group on Friday during an address at the opening of the second annual staging of the three-day Rastafari Rootz Fest at Long Bay Beach, Negril.


On the matter of temples, however, the minister warned that the establishment of religious buildings is governed by law.


"There are a number of churches that need to be regularised. You can’t just declare on your own that this is a temple. We have to find a proper way that we can declare areas of worship, whether it comes from Parliament or it comes from some other legislation, that you don’t get into any problems with the law," Chuck declared.


The inaugural Rastafari Rootz festival was billed last year as High Times Cannabis Cup. However, local organisers have since severed ties with High Times, the New York magazine which owns rights to the Cannabis Cup.


According to organisers, the event is primarily aimed at mobilising, educating and connecting players in Jamaica’s emerging ganja industry following an amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act last year.


Meanwhile, Opposition spokesman on justice Senator Mark Golding expressed that the industry around medical and therapeutic cannabis and industrial hemp is on the cusp of greatness, "but there is still some work to do and we have to push out some more effort because the framework is there".


Chuck responded that as minister he is doing his best to implement the ganja legislation that "has just been passed", but has to be mindful that it is balanced and not in breach of international treaties.


Head of the Rastafari Administrative Council, Ras Iyah V, argued that Government has to sit down and chart a course that is beneficial to Jamaicans which is "at the same time in accordance with that regulatory framework".


Ras Iyah V is the chief organiser of Rootz Fest.


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