Antigua and Barbuda is set to legalise the regulated production and supply of cannabis for religious and medical purposes, following consultations with Rastafarian communities.
The Cannabis Bill 2018 has two main functions: regulating the production, prescribing, and supply of medical cannabis for patients; and permitting Rastafarians (and other religious groups) to possess, cultivate, and supply cannabis – at quantities exceeding existing thresholds - for religious purposes. The bill stops short of legalising cannabis for recreational purposes.
Following a legal amendment passed in March 2018, all adults can now legally possess less than 15 grams of cannabis, and cultivate a maximum of four plants, for personal use.
The new bill allows "an adherent of a religious body, including, but not limited to, the Rastafarian faith … [to] register with the Authority to" cultivate over four cannabis plants, and possess or transport over 15 grams of cannabis, for religious purposes. It also allows such religious followers to “dispense cannabis solely for religious purposes as a sacrament in adherence to a religious practice of the religious body, at a sacramental dispensary”.
The bill is supported by Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who has publicly apologised for the brutal state discrimination against Rastafarian people found using cannabis. As TalkingDrugs reported in February, Browne recalled personally witnessing police using excessive force against Rastafarian people for alleged cannabis offences: