Antigua and Barbuda is poised to legalize the cultivation and supply of cannabis for religious and medical purposes after lobbying from Rastafarian groups.

Prime minister Gaston Browne supports the bill after becoming the first world leader to apologize to the Rastafarian community for discrimination earlier this year.

The Caribbean nation’s government has just created a new bill called The Permitted Use of Cannabis for Religious Purposes Act of 2018. Under this bill, all adults in Antigua and Barbuda will be allowed to legally possess up to 15 grams of cannabis. They can also grow four plants for personal use.

But the new bill is designed to allow people to possess or transport more than 15 grams of cannabis and to grow more than four plants. It would also allow Rastafarians and other religious groups to dispense marijuana at designated religious sites.

Prime minister Gaston Browne supports the bill after becoming the first world leader to apologize to the Rastafarian community for discrimination earlier this year. He said the prohibition of cannabis has led to Rastafari being brutalized and castigated by police and government officers, and he pledged to end the pernicious prohibition. He feels that global prohibition is racist and based on self-serving propaganda, and he appears determined to push this bill through.

Final consultations are being held today on the Cannabis Bill 2018 in parliament. A five-strong select committee hand-picked by Browne will discuss the bill with medical professionals and Rastafarians, and the country’s media expects it to pass into law soon.

The 54-page bill is divided into five parts, with one about cannabis use for religious purposes, one on offences, one on appeals and two on cannabis for medicinal purposes. It aims to authorize doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis and to roll out a regulated industry for local supply and exports.

Antigua and Barbuda will establish a Medicinal Cannabis Authority that will monitor the medicinal cannabis industry, ensure best practice and uphold high standards. The government plans to appoint a chairperson to lead the authority and head up a team that assesses applications and inspects operations.

“We invite the various stakeholders to come and give their views on the proposed marijuana bill and for us to make changes and to come back here within the next 10 days by which time we will have our final debate and to pass this Bill into an Act, the Cannabis Bill of 2018,” said Browne.