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‘Crafty’ Rastas Jumped The Gun

Bahamas Christian Council President Delton Fernander and Attorney General Carl Bethel.

Bahamas Christian Council President Delton Fernander and Attorney General Carl Bethel.

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel yesterday said legal action from the Rastafarian community over their right to sacramental use of cannabis, has an “extremely slim” chance at success and should have been delayed to wait on the outcome from the national Marijuana Commission.

Meanwhile, Bahamas Christian Council President Delton Fernander has characterised the legal threat as a “crafty way to force the government’s hand” towards legalisation.

However, legal counsel for the group, Wayne Munroe, QC, told The Tribune he is gearing up for a legal battle he has been waiting to wage since he left law school in the 80s.

Mr Munroe added the government’s Marijuana Commission was nothing more than a thinly veiled probe into the pros and cons of “smoking dope for fun”.

“I have been looking for some Rasta with the courage to do this,” Mr Munroe said. “They said the same thing about our battle with the Muslim on the Defence Force, and what happened with that? It went all the way to the Privy Council who affirmed his religious freedom.”

He was referring to a constitutional dispute between the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and former officer Gregory Laramore, who refused to participate in a Christian prayer service and was disciplined for it.

“It’s a mental thing,” Mr Munroe continued. 

“If the proposition was should Christians worship freely in the Bahamas, would anybody wait until the government decides if they can do what they already have a right to do?

“You see Rastas hauled before the courts on a possession charge and you hear a magistrate tell them they must stop smoking marijuana, what type of nonsense is that?”

The Bobo Ashanti - formally known as the Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress (EABIC) - gave the government 10 days to indicate a willingness to grant a licence for the cultivation, possession and supply of Indian hemp or face a lawsuit on the grounds that a refusal breaches their constitutional right to religious freedom.

That deadline expires on Wednesday, but the AG’s position - coupled with comments made by Health Minister Dr Duane Sands in the House of Assembly last week - makes it clear the matter will not be resolved without legal action.

The health minister maintained the government’s position that it would not consider the issuance of “multiple licences” under the Dangerous Drugs Act during this consultative period as it would circumvent the work of the commission.

The commission has been granted a three-month extension to complete its work after missing its April deadline.

Yesterday, Mr Bethel said: “Everybody has a right to assert a claim to whatever right they feel that they have. The law is the law, it has been the same law since before independence so I’m not entirely sure…they have extremely slim prospects of any success and they may be better advised to wait for the national consultation and determination on what we’re going to do.”

The call to suspend legal action until the Marijuana Commission has completed its report was also echoed by its co-chair, Bishop Simeon Hall.

The EABIC’s legal letter argues that Roman Catholic and Anglican churches are allowed to give alcohol to confirmed minors as a religious sacrament while Rastafarians are criminalised.

It also underscores the Dangerous Drugs Act that gave the health minister responsibility for the control of Indian hemp and the other dangerous drugs specified in the act.

For his part, Mr Fernander said while he did not wish to alienate the Rastafarian community, there was a clear loophole that needed to be addressed before any resolution could be achieved.

He said the BCC would be closely monitoring legal arguments presented in court.

“I believe the difference being put forth is not all churches serve alcohol for their sacrament,” Mr Fernander said, “and for those confirmed youths it’s distinguished how young you can be to partake. Obviously the Rastafarians have a right to partake in their sacrament, but they don’t have the right to partake in their sacrament that’s illegal.” 

Mr Fernander continued: “It’s a crafty way to force the government’s hand but then the whole country has to legalise. And the challenge to their argument if it is approved and legalised that way is everyone will say they’re Rastafarian - here is a loophole. We don’t want to alienate the Rastas but we must be very careful in arguments we bring.”

Yesterday, Mr Munroe insisted cannabis was not illegal and accessible to vets and dentists upon application, and as such, the only determination that needed to be made was how to set up proper controls. He underscored his clients were not asking for the issuance of a licence.

The outspoken QC said the official response to his client’s appeal indicated a level of incompetence and lack of understanding of religious freedom.

“I can’t countenance people not respecting other people’s faith,” Mr Munroe continued, “it is something we should be ashamed of as Bahamians at any time. We talk about how the Eleutheran Adventurers came here because of religious persecution - well what are we doing to these fellas?

“Why talk about we gotta go to court,” Mr Munroe said, “why not talk about what are the control measures we’re going to put in place. Instead, they want us to go to court, we succeed, then they advocate for a right to put a sensible thing in place, and then what?

“(The Marijuana Commission), all they talking about is smoking dope for fun, and them trying to dress it up as anything other than smoking dope for fun is disingenuous, which is really dangerous.”

Mr Munroe made it clear he was against recreational use, noting the impact legalisation would have on drug use among rebellious minors.

Yesterday, a representative on the Marijuana Commission - who spoke on the condition of anonymity - told The Tribune the body was “scattered” in its opinion on the way forward.

Pointing out that the Rastafarian community has representation on the committee, the commission representative suggested the legal threat was directly linked to dissatisfaction with the status of deliberations. 

“There is no real unity,” the commission member said, “no real message. So if they feel they are being left out of the presentation, they may have been advised to force the government to legalise this.”

Comments

John 2 months, 1 week ago

Moving forward there will have to be a clear definition of what is ‘marijuana ‘ or what is ‘cannibis.’ As you may know there’s a lot of GMO marijuana on the streets. Some strains to the point of being weaponized. And rather than putting a user in a translucent, meditative and spiritual state, it makes one rebellious, agitated angry and violent. And, unfortunately, this represents the majority of marijuana coming into the country today. And when consumed with alcohol it is even more destructive and now there is a possibility that evil doers are seeking ways to steep already modified marijuana in fentanyl. This drug (fentanyl) has singularly been responsible for the most drug related deaths in The United States in the past five years. When added to heroine and cocaine it makes those drugs hundreds of times more powerful. But of course Rastafarians do not consume alcohol, cocaine or heroine and certainly if laws are passed to allow them to smoke marijuana as part of their faith, they will take measures to ensure try only smoke culture or natural weed.

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proudloudandfnm 2 months, 1 week ago

Where did you get this load of crap from?????

I bet you never smoked in your life. Yet you have an opinion.... hmmmm….

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John 2 months, 1 week ago

A male gynecologist has never been pregnant either. But it is more than his opinion that gives him the capacity to attend his patients!

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DWW 2 months, 1 week ago

you really don't even know how uneducated you sound? try a google search please and review reputable sources such as https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/cannabis/">https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/cannabis/

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John 2 months, 1 week ago

Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

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TheMadHatter 2 months, 1 week ago

People dont care what Jesus said anymore. Sunday is dress-up day. So many churches - like Rev above said - dont even use wine in their sacrament. They believe Jesus turned water into apple cider. At the Last Supper he and the apostles drank Tang.

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Sickened 2 months, 1 week ago

Lol! Religion changes all the time according to what has the most appeal to bring people into the church and pay offerings. The arguments make for good entertainment though and quickly allows us to put people into the 'okay then' category.

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John 2 months, 1 week ago

The Bible also says when the church appears at its weakest, it will become at its strongest because Godhimself will restore the church. The gates of hell shall not prevail and that wicked one and those who follow him will be destroyed.

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sealice 2 months, 1 week ago

This is a huge loop hole that anyone will be able to jump through after this group does.....Even if you cut off this gubmints hand and try push it ya self you can makedatshite move......

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TheMadHatter 2 months, 1 week ago

"Crafty Rastas"? Is that similar to "Uppity Niggers"??? My oh my. No foreign force needs to attack the Bahamas, we are killing ourselves better than anyone else can.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 1 week ago

Why do you so often seek to inject racism into your posts? We haven't had a ball or chain placed on us for many decades. You leave many of us to wonder whether you are comfortable in your own skin. There's no need for you to feel threatened, embarrassed or ashamed of the colour of your skin, no matter what colour it may be. It's most difficult to live a successful, productive and happy life if you're uncomfortable in your own skin. Don't allow your mindset to be needlessly chained to the wrongs of the past because doing so will only prevent you from accomplishing anything meaning for you and those around you in the future.

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TheMadHatter 2 months, 1 week ago

Your point is very valid. I ought to reduce my use of racism in my posts, you are correct. What I have always meant by such remarks is the "we are our own worst enemy" element. It is just so hard to understand how a people who descended from a era when rights and freedoms were selectively doled out based on race and I would imagine other factors, would not be hell bent on ensuring that everyone today were allowed to have the same rights and freedoms as everyone else, and that some select few who choose to be different in some way - supposedly because of some difference in their belief system - (lest it cause harm to others) be left alone to practice their faith or whatever it is (non-religious even) and give respect. The idea of using force of law (and even upholding the "law" to a high standard of a moral compass, knowing full well that historically the law has been flawed and has been unjust and denied many those things which were rightfully theirs) is just so silly I cannot understand it. Was there a certain DATE month day year that the law suddenly became infallible? What was that date? If such a date occurred and if the law is presently infallible and perfectly correct - why then do we criticize MPs and other law makers both here and around the world? We should all be lining up in the mornings hoping to get a chance to kiss their feet !!!! After all these are the makers and keepers of perfection. So let's stop jumping on any issue which hurts or separates anyone or any group of people without giving very very very serious thought to the old saying "There but for the Grace of God go I".

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John 2 months, 1 week ago

So how long have you been drolling, "jonsing" even to use the "nigger" word.in The Tribune So you got it off your chest, at last!

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TheMadHatter 2 months, 1 week ago

But just in case you think im the only one who overuses the slavery motif ... here is a clip from today's news

https://www.breitbart.com/entertainme...">https://www.breitbart.com/entertainme...

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DWW 2 months, 1 week ago

breitbart is not news. you konw that silly

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joeblow 2 months, 1 week ago

Does "sacramental use" mean only within religious ceremonies with a congregation, or would that include personal use as well?

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bogart 2 months, 1 week ago

AFTER DECADES OF .....THE BAHAMAS CHRISTIAN COUNCIL.....ONLY KNOWING THE FUNDAMENTAL FACT OF THE RASTAFARIAN MUST USE THE MARIJUANA....FOR RELIGON.....??????? BCC AFTER.....decades of knowing ppverty increasing...children been no father....da liklihood increasing GANGS BEING FORMED...DELINQUIENT BEHAVIOUR.INCREASE...??????.......AFTER....decades of preachin on gambling....just a few years remain cat gat dere tongue as Web House became legalized evev though majority voted agsinst it an Church failed the nation people....?????......AFTER.....decades declining nation plenty CHRISTIAN principles to be guided by Christian principles and as the mostest increases of some 4,000 Churches ..Why hav a BCC.....getting rewarded...all the rewards of tax exemptions by same nation....???????.......what is the govt facilitating Licenced Churches, legal affliations.......an dere is not PUBLIC ROLE....ARTICLES...MEMO....ASSOCIATION..JOB DESCRIPTION...OF THE BCC....??????

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DWW 2 months, 1 week ago

you sir need to take a break from the kronic until you can form an actual understandable sentence. seriously why do you even waste your time. no bothers to read anything you post. it is just babelspeak

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bogart 2 months, 1 week ago

SERIOUSLY, my comments are QUITE FINE.....to many persons......WHO RESPECT THE RIGHTS OF FREE SPEECH.....FREE RIGHTS TO ASSOCIATE.....BASIC RIGHTS....In dis world many phenomenal organizations...followers hav done tries to analyze...biologigal..measure people by heads wid rulers to not perfect by intelligence..aryan race....separate persons ...put in NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS...inferior in dere perfect world...Bahamas history has where one group thought itself in all ways .....superior to others....an yes...many still subscribe to that.......yes..no..??....many others have engaged in genocides to eliminate others like myself....PLEASE read again and comment..nastiest..language if you wish....but please not to kill or harm me or such others..physically .....as I or others are not perfect in your sight....

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 1 week ago

The greedy marijuana plantation owners in Jamaica are using their religious agents in our country to do their dirty work in the Bahamas. The only marijuana that should be legalized is "medical marijuana" in liquid form that must be prescribed by the patient's medical doctor. Our laws should be changed so that the casual illegal smoker of 'weed' is not sent to prison for a long period of time if they are unable to pay a reasonable 'detterent' fine for their offense. Long prison sentences should be reserved for those found to be illegally engaged in the marijuana trade as dealers.

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John 2 months, 1 week ago

Again you are demonstrating your latitude for ignorance and dishonesty. More marijuana is grown and distributed in America than is done in Jamaica.currently. Because of the highly potent strains or marijuana being grown along with technology that controls everything to sunlight to soil chemistry to moisture to wind exposure, Jamaica cannot compete with their American counterparts. Their produce is still 'bulky' and after growing it, they must take the risk of smuggling it into the United States. So more and more Jamaican weed is for local and Caribbean markets, where it must still compete with the genetically modified cannabis. The era of giving persons long prison terms for marijuana is mostly behind us and is may be the producers of alcohol and tobacco products who find themselves faced with multi-billion lawsuits for selling dangerous products.

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TalRussell 2 months, 1 week ago

Abundance evidence argument that racism had lots do with the comrade Bay Street Boys gutting caught up US government's rationalisation turn marijuana uses into criminals, yes, no............ an ugly something that has been shamefully supported by every single government since governing days Bay Street Boys............and no new taking jump on board cannabis train by Papa Hubert, Minnis, nor Perry can cloud over the Cannabis ugly truth, yes, no.....not one three man's are calling those in our jails over use cannabis to be immediately SET FREE, yes, no........

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proudloudandfnm 2 months, 1 week ago

Just legalize and get it done already enough of these asinine theories and opinions. It is as benign as aspirin. LEGALIZE IT...…

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TalRussell 2 months, 1 week ago

Comrade Proud, haven't you not learnt Imperialists red shirts cabinet goin' 'normalise' Weed as business as soon as 'non Out Islanders' have their monies and political frontman's in place, yes, no..............we government's likes 'normalise' things, not legalise............. New reports saying the ritual 'sale' the Grand Lucayan Hotel is now delayed Halloween Day 2019, yes, no............ another OBAN tricking-or treating serving of the spoils 'FREE' porters...............

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DWW 2 months, 1 week ago

says the town idiot Tal the mighty

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John 2 months, 1 week ago

The Fool Says, There Is No God To the choirmaster. Of David.

14 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. 2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand,[a] who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. 4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord? 5 There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. 6 You would shame the plans of the poor, but[b] the Lord is his refuge. Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

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TalRussell 2 months, 1 week ago

Comrade John, what was Jesus's, donkey's name?

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John 2 months, 1 week ago

Tal Jesus’s donkey may not have had a name, but there are many jack asses in the world today with names. Just look at the question you asked me and try to fit it in with the topic being discussed. Not much difference between an ass and a mule!

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TalRussell 2 months, 1 week ago

John, I think it's biblical consensus of the day that the name Jesus's, donkey had be's Comrade Hosanna....... yes, no..............

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ThisIsOurs 2 months, 1 week ago

I the editor wanted to put a positive spin on it. They could have titled the article "caught with pants down once again". Ain't Symonette just ask Fred Smith to stop catching them off guard too?

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John 2 months, 1 week ago

@ Tal Russell and The Mad Hatter: The Bible also says in case you thought slavery was a mistake, just watch they will do to descendants of slaves in that ‘strange ‘ nation. See the police killings? The jailing of young Black men ? The poisonings of drinking water? The blatant discrimination? The destruction of Black communities, even here. And God says after all the slaves have gone to a peaceful sleep (after all the slaves have died). I , GOD, will judge that strange land, that wicked nation. And your sons and your daughters ( descendants of slaves) shall come out of her. With great riches. So if the first part of this covenant ( slavery) was true and has already happened, the second part of the promise (judgment of nations that participated in slavery and the ENRICHMENT of descendants of slaves). Must also come to pass. The God we )Black peoples serve says ‘My word shall not come back to me null and void.’ Stay woke!

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DWW 2 months, 1 week ago

cough cough sorry sir the commission cough is going to need another 3 months (hey john pass the chips over) munch munch Yes sir we need another 3 months to cough cough review the implications and collect some more pay from the gubmint dem. (wow nice bong hit there Tal). Bogart pass to the left not right and stop hogging the research material. lOLOlOLoloLOolOlOlOL

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