A human rights lawyer and lawmaker says the Permitted Use of Cannabis for Religious Purposes Act currently before Parliament could face a constitutional challenge if passed into law.
The bill is one of three that will be debated in Parliament on Nov. 20 and is likely to be passed into law that day.
A bi-partisan select committee of the House of Assembly and members of civil society are reviewing the draft laws.
If passed into law, the bill will provide, under certain guidelines, for the use of cannabis in religious worship.
Speaking on her New Democratic Party’s “New Times” programme on NICE Radio on Friday, Sen. Kay Bacchus-Baptiste said this is a “worthy” piece of legislation.
“However, this act may not have gone far enough. It is somewhat limiting in that the authority will define what is a religious denomination, which religious denominations, how you can plant, where you can plant, where you can use it.
“Yes, this is necessary but, at the same time, … do you go to the Roman Catholic Church when they use their incense and their different sacraments that they use and try to limit how they use it? But you are going to tell the Rastaman how to use their sacrament. So constitutional issues, serious constitutional issues, may be raised,” said Bacchus-Baptiste, who is a lawyer and human rights activist.
“Having decided that they now have the right to use it, are you going to tell them where they must use it? That doesn’t happen with the other churches so it could raise constitutional issues in relation to the use of a sacrament which is now accepted that this is how the Rastafarian religion use the herb,” she said.