by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The Smoking (Designated Areas) Bill, the Rastafari Rights Recognition Bill, the Freedom of Conscience (Cannabis) Bill and the Drugs Misuse Amendment Bill, were passed into law on Tuesday, June 20, 2023.
According to the Attorney General, Hon Garth Wilkin, the suite of legislations are geared towards finding a balance between protecting the constitutional rights and freedom of citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis.
During the debate on Tuesday, June 20, Wilkin said, once the suite of legislations are passed into law, the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs will immediately trigger the “Cannabis Clarity St. Kitts and Nevis Public Education Campaign”. He also mentioned that the campaign will involve the launching of a website cannabisclarity.gov.kn, social media pages and public billboards. On the website, “the general public will have access to information about the new Cannabis law regime and can submit their questions to get answers” Wilkin stated.
The pilot project to the Smoking (Designated Areas) Act was launched during the 25th anniversary of the St. Kitts Music Festival on Thursday, June 22- to Saturday, June 24 2023. There, a Smoker’s Lounge called “High Rise” was specially established for patrons who were interested in smoking whilst the event was ongoing. The lounge was utilised by a fair number of patrons.
The Smoking Act allows the Chief Medical Officer to designate specific public spaces as areas for smoking. Businesses and event promoters have until October 31 2023 to register and licence their businesses or events as designated smoking areas.
Meanwhile, The Rastafari Rights Recognition Act now gives rastas in the Federation sacramental rights to Cannabis.
Wilkin in a post on his Facebook platform stated that as of June 20, 2023 “Men and women of our society that call themselves Rasta and subscribe to the Rastafari way of life, have their constitutional rights recognized and enshrined in law, for no man to trample on ever again.”
He continued, “Led by the brave legal challenge to the laws of this country by Ras Sankofa Maccabee, on May 3, 2019, Rastafari was recognized by our courts as a religion and some of our cannabis related laws have been struck down as being infringements of the constitutional rights of Rasta.”
Wilkin added “If there was ever a manifestation of the words penned by Robert Nesta Marley 40 years ago, in 1983, in his popular Reggae song Rastaman Live Up: “Iyaman live up, Rastaman don’t give up”, this case was it.”
According to the Attorney General, the Rastafari Rights Recognition Act 2023 gives Rastas in St. Kitts and Nevis “the full legal right to cultivate, harvest, dry, trim, cure or possess and smoke cannabis as a sacrament for their upliftment or edification at their places of assembly.”
The other benefits that the rastas receive under the Act are free registration with the Ministry of Ecclesiastical and Faith Based Affairs; access, free of cost, to licences that are to be issued in the near future by the Medicinal Cannabis Authority; access to tax and other concessions which would help their farms and other businesses thrive; status in law which allows the legal foundations to change the narrative about Rastafarianism to combat religious intolerance and; reparative justice to the Rastafarian community.
The Freedom of Conscience (Cannabis) Act 2023 gives rastas an opportunity to apply for a licence issued by the Ministry of Ecclesiastical and Faith-Based Affairs in order to legally possess up to 2 ounces of cannabis, cultivate up to 5 cannabis plants in a secured private place at their home and smoke cannabis in designated public areas. Licensing is free until December 22, 2023. The cost will be EC$100 per year, thereafter.
The Drugs Amendment Act, 2023 decriminalises the possession and cultivation of cannabis, but makes it a ticketable offence for individuals not holding a licence under the Freedom of Conscience (Cannabis) Act, 2023). It also allows exemptions from criminal action against persons issued with cannabis-related licences by the Chief Medical Officer, the Medicinal Cannabis Authority and the Ministry of Ecclesiastical and Faith-Based Affairs. Any person found to be smoking outside the designated smoking areas can be ticketed and are liable to a fine of EC$500.00.