(St Lucia Star)
Do Rastafarians deserve a piece of the weed pie? On February 6, Antigua and Barbuda made history by becoming the first OECS nation to decriminalize marijuana (for personal use). During his presentation on the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill, Prime Minister Gaston Browne spoke on the treatment of the Rastafarian community in years past. “I was terrified as a youth of the potential abuse by policemen at the time. They would literally go into people’s private homes and literally abuse them. The consequences were not just prosecution, it was also brutalization.”
After reminding parliament of this dark past, he went on to offer an apology. “I want to take this opportunity to apologize to the family members of those individuals for the abuse that would have taken place over the decades,” adding, “We’re willing to provide some form of support for these families.”
So, is he right? Should Rastafarians and their families who were so affected receive some kind of support? Here in sweet Helen, their community had to endure the same. There are stories of members being forced to swallow ‘joints’ if they were caught with them. They would be beaten and some even had their prized dreadlocks chopped off. My generation has heard all about the Mount Gimie saga. A community was forced to live in fear for their lives.
Some may attempt to justify the treatment they received by pointing to the fact that marijuana is illegal. But to go back to an earlier quote by PM Gaston Browne: “The consequences were not just prosecution, it was also brutalization.” Fast-forward to 2018. One by one, countries realize the financial benefits of the decriminalization route, and flock to cash-in. So this begs the question: What, if any, compensation will they give? Many, whose lives were affected and torn apart, watch and wait in anticipation to see what their respective governments will do. Will they decriminalize marijuana, and will they, like the Antiguan government, even consider compensation? Only time will tell.
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