The Rastafarian community of Saint Lucia has threatened to sue the government if it does not legalize recreational cannabis use.

The Iyanola Council for the Advancement of Rastafari said a ban on marijuana violates the constitutional and human rights of its members. Cannabis use is a key tenet of the Rastafarian religion and the group argued that freedom of religion is enshrined in the constitution and in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

ICAR president Aaron Alexander noted that fellow Caribbean nation St Kitts and Nevis passed legislation permitting Rastafarians to use marijuana in the privacy of their own homes. “We saw Antigua and Barbuda went ahead and did it, we saw Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, so we are wondering what is happening to Saint Lucia,” said Alexander.

He urged his country to follow suit. The Saint Lucia Cannabis Commission is due to submit its latest report on cannabis legislation to the Prime Minister and Cabinet of Minister by the end of February. If it does not recommend legalization, Alexander pledged to take the government to court.

The Mayor of Castries, the capital of Saint Lucia, is the latest prominent public official to declare his support for a legal cannabis industry. His Worship Peterson D. Francis has been fully briefed on every aspect of a proposed industry, and he said he supports it.

However, he warned that any regulatory framework must ensure that “corporate greed” does not take over the industry. Mayor Francis wants to see small businesses empowered to flourish, young people protected and economic opportunity for all, while urging Saint Lucia to “write the wrongs of the past”.

The movement to relax cannabis laws is spreading across the Caribbean. Tomorrow the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Timothy Harris, will introduce a bill designed to establish a Medical Cannabis Authority.

It also seeks to update last year’s decriminalization law. Currently it is not considered a criminal offence to possess up to 15 grams of cannabis, but the government is planning to change that to 56 grams. It would also expunge criminal records of anyone convicted of a minor possession offence in the past.

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