On Wednesday, Antigua and Barbuda became the first country in the Caribbean to legalize the use of marijuana for religious purposes.
Three Rastafarian groups were granted authority by the Gaston Browne-led administration to use marijuana for the sacrament.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he made the decision in keeping with his administration’s thrust to promote inclusiveness.
“No group of individuals, based on their economic standing, their belief or religious practices…should be marginalized in this country,” Browne said.
According to him, his government believes strongly in inclusivity and equality of opportunity and justice, “and certainly, as your prime minister, I will continue to champion those causes on behalf of our people not only here but in the wider region,” Browne stated.
Representatives of the Nyabinghi Theocracy Church Inc., RasFreeman Foundation for the Unification of Rastafari, and the Wan Love Chant, all signed on behalf of their faith.
Under the current regulations, in the twin-island nation, persons over age 18 are permitted to possess a maximum of 15 grams of cannabis, while no more than four cannabis plants can be grown in each household.
The government has admitted that the move to decriminalize the cultivation and use of marijuana for personal use could potentially contribute to the prevalence of substance abuse among the nation’s youth.
That admission followed word from the police that marijuana is one of the substances most abused by children in the country, and also a public condemnation of that reality by members of the public who believe it is evidence of a decaying society.