The U.S. government is again highlighting religious discrimination against people who consume marijuana, but is only shining a spotlight on such anti-cannabis bias that occurs in other countries.
In Guyana, for example, “representatives of the Rastafarian community said that a law criminalizing the possession of 15 grams or more of marijuana infringed on their religious practices,” a new U.S. State Department report says. “A representative of the Rastafari Council said some members of his community faced extra scrutiny from law enforcement officials who believed Rastafaris carried marijuana on their person.”
“The council petitioned the government to legalize the use of small amounts of marijuana for religious purposes, but authorities reportedly did not consider the proposal, saying that reviewing drug legislation was not a state priority at that time.”
In Sierra Leone, “Rastafarians reported this [cannabis] prohibition restricted their ability to use cannabis as a core component of their religious practices.” A community elder told the State Department that “there were 15 incidents of police harassment during the year, often tied to…use of cannabis.”
“The alleged harassment included beatings and confiscation of property found on their persons.”
Also in Sierra Leone, government officials still have not held nine police officers accountable for a 2016 incident in which they damaged a temple as part of a marijuana enforcement operation.
The findings are among several included State Department’s 2017 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, released on Tuesday.
In Barbados, “Rastafarians continued to state their objection to the government’s enforcement of the prohibition on marijuana for any use, which they said made it impossible to fully perform their religious rituals,” the U.S. report says. “Rastafarian activists continued to say that police and immigration officials required Rastafarians to remove head coverings and gave extra scrutiny to Rastafarian women at checkpoints, which they said was a pretext for searching for marijuana.”
In Saint Kitts and Nevis, “Rastafarians continued to face police harassment, particularly for the use of marijuana for religious purposes. Rastafarian representatives continued to state that marijuana, banned by law, was integral to their religious rituals.”
In the Czech Republic, the government suspended a registration application for the Cannabis Church.
“Members of the Rastafarian community said police and immigration officials continued to subject them to scrutiny because of the use of marijuana in the Rastafarian community,” in Dominica. “According to reports by both the police and members of the Rastafarian community, persons of other religious groups were not subject to such scrutiny.”
Despite the ongoing hardships across the world for people who use marijuana for spiritual reasons, Rastafarians in several countries noted that discrimination seems to be ebbing, at least somewhat.
In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, for example, despite continued “societal discrimination” against cannabis consumption, some Rastafarians said they “were increasingly accepted in society, and society was becoming more tolerant of their way of life,” citing a “perceived reduction in police harassment as proof of increased societal acceptance.”
In Jamaica, advocates said a 2015 law legalizing spiritual cannabis use “allowed them to practice their religion according to their beliefs.”
“Rastafarians said law enforcement officials on rare occasions still profiled, stopped, and searched Rastafarians for possession of marijuana over the decriminalized limit, but they were no longer concerned about being detained for carrying marijuana to religious ceremonies for use as a sacrament,” the report says.
Another hopeful sign came from South Africa, where Rastafarians cheered a High Court ruling that declared a ban on marijuana use by adults in private homes to be unconstitutional.
Although U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the new report “is a testament to the United States’s historic role in preserving and advocating for religious freedom around the world,” legal arguments for the use of marijuana in accordance with various religions have repeatedly been rejected by U.S. courts.
‘I Can’t Breathe’: Video Shows Grandmother With Arthritis Arrested For CBD At Disney World
Police released body camera footage of a 69-year-old woman being arrested at a Florida amusement park for possessing CBD oil without a state medical cannabis card on Tuesday.
Hester Burkhalter, a grandmother who suffers from arthritis, was arrested after an off duty sheriff’s deputy discovered the oil in her purse at a checkpoint at Disney’s Magic Kingdom last month in a case that made headlines around the world.
The newly released video shows Burkhalter being handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car, where she began to feel claustrophobic and said, “I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m going to pass out.” One deputy said that she threw up, according to News 6.
Burkhalter, who says her doctor in Tennessee recommended CBD, later spent 12 hours in custody and was released on a $2,000 bond.
Burkhalter requested to be transported to the jail alone, as opposed to being transported along with another individual who was arrested for possession of a cannabis vaporizer, and a deputy made a call to accommodate her. She was allowed to be taken to the facility in the front seat of a separate patrol car.
“The older female said she gets claustrophobic, and feels like she’s going to pass out, and wants somebody else so she can go by herself,” the deputy said on a call.
Once she was in the front seat with air conditioning on, she said she felt better and thanked the deputy.
“I couldn’t breathe back there,” she reiterated.
When the arrest was first reported, reform advocates condemned the park and sheriff’s department for subjecting an older woman to an arrest on a family vacation for simple possession of a non-intoxicating compound that is known to treat pain and inflammation.
CBD is legal for medical purposes in Florida, but individuals must be registered to possess medical cannabis in the state. Hemp-derived CBD was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet developed regulatory guidelines allowing for its lawful marketing as a food item or supplement.
Prosecutors dropped the charges against Burkhalter earlier this month, finding her case unsuitable for prosecution. She’s since announced plans to file a lawsuit against Disney and the sheriff’s department.
“Horrific treatment that they placed upon this church-going, law-abiding grandmother,” her lawyer said at a press conference.
In a similarly confounding recent case, a 72-year-old woman was arrested at a Texas airport after security discovered CBD oil. She was charged with a felony that carried a maximum sentence of 20 years, and she stayed in custody for two days.
“To be honest, I did not even think about the possibility of my CBD being illegal or being challenged,” Lena Bartula, who was going to visit family in Oregon, said. “It is such an integral part of my wellness that it got thrown into my bag along with Vitamin C and oregano oil.”
“Had I thought about it, I would have remembered that I could buy it in Portland,” she said.
The charges in that case were also dropped about two months after the arrest.
In other recent cannabis enforcement action called out as excessive by reform advocates, Missouri police officers searched through the belongings of a man with stage-four pancreatic cancer in March after a security guarded reported the smell of marijuana.
The officers found nothing, but video of the search sparked public outrage over the harassing behavior of the officers toward a sick man who said he does benefit from medical cannabis.
Photo courtesy of YouTube.
Presidential Candidate Jokes About Why Denver Decriminalized Psychedelic Mushrooms
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) joked on Thursday that Denver voters approved a measure to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms because they thought the state of Colorado was running low on marijuana.
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate made the remark during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. The host asked Bennet if it was “true that magic mushrooms are going to be legal in Colorado.”
(The measure actually simply decriminalizes psilocybin mushrooms for adults, and only in the city of Denver.)
Bennet slapped his knee and quipped, “I think that our voters just voted to get Denver to do that, and I think they might’ve thought that we were out of marijuana all of a sudden.”
“And by the way, we’re not out of marijuana in Colorado,” he said.
“That’s what it says on the state flag now, right?” Meyers said.
“Yeah, exactly,” Bennet replied.
The senator, who previously served as the superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, has cosponsored several wide-ranging cannabis bills in Congress, including legislation to federally deschedule marijuana and penalize states that enforce cannabis laws in a discriminatory way.
But before his state voted to legalize marijuana in 2012, Bennet stood opposed.
It’s not clear how he voted on Denver’s historic psilocybin initiative.
At least Bennet is aware of the measure and was willing to joke about it, though. Several of his colleagues who have worked on cannabis issues declined to weigh in on decriminalizing psychedelics when asked by Marijuana Moment recently.
Photo courtesy of YouTube/Late Night with Seth Meyers.
Horses Should Lay Off CBD, Equestrian Sports Regulator Says
Hay is for horses, but CBD isn’t.
That’s according to the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF), which set the rules for most horse-related sports in the country, including dressage, jumping and endurance riding.
In a press release on Tuesday, the organization clarified that just because the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp and its derivatives such as CBD, that doesn’t mean that horses competing in various equestrian events are allowed to partake.
Horses competing under USEF rules who test positive for CBD will be considered in violation of GR4 beginning September 1, 2019. Read more 👇https://t.co/6M0MHo8Vq4
— US Equestrian (@USequestrian) May 14, 2019
“From time to time, new products appear on the equine supplement market claiming to enhance a horse’s performance,” USEF, which does not regulate thoroughbred horse racing, wrote. “Over the last several years, cannabinoids have gained increased attention and have become nearly mainstream.”
CBD, both synthetic and natural, “are likely to effect the performance of a horse due to its reported anxiolytic effects” and the products are therefore “no different than legitimate therapeutics that effect mentation and behavior in horses.”
“It is for these reasons that USEF prohibits CBD and all related cannabinoids,” USEF explained. “Horses competing under USEF rules who test positive for natural cannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids and other cannabimimetics will be considered in violation of GR4 beginning September 1, 2019.”
It’s unclear whether USEF has already developed technology capable of testing for CBD metabolites, as standard cannabis testing instruments are generally only designed to detect for metabolites of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
However, USEF said that, in fact, “analytical methods are being implemented to detect CBD and similar cannabinoids.”
What about the human athletes involved in the horse sports? USEF referred anyone curious about that policy to the World Anti-Doping Code, which does allow the use of CBD while maintaining a ban on THC.
Professional golfers are also being warned about using CBD products. Last month, the PGA Tour published a newsletter urging caution when using CBD, as some products may contain trace amounts of THC that could turn up in a drug test.
As in equestrian sporting, golfers are also barred from using marijuana.