Malawi Police has said 12 rastafarians will appear in court soon to answer charges of cultivation and possession of cannabis sativa without a licence and misconduct at a police station but they have argued that ‘weed’ is considered to be an aid to worship, a medicine and a source of income for their sect.
According to Police the suspects are Ras Mishack Banda, 52, as the leader of the group, Yohane Boniface, 25; Daniel Zulu, 21; Simeon Mwale,27; Zambika Masoadyera, 27; Langizo Siliya, 24; Chadaza Phiri, 23; Patrick Mhango, 23; Gelesomo Chemili,35; Kabungwe Mwale,35; Meshack John, 24; Jonathan Sakale, 22; John Biliati, 20; and Mathews Sitolo, 20.
They were arrested for misconduct at Guillime Police Unit in Mchinji district following the arrest of their fellow two Rastafarians for cultivating Indian hemp in their gardens, according to Mchinji Police Station spokesperson Lubrino Kaitano.
The Rastafarians in Mchinji mobilised themselves in an attempt to rescue their friends from the police unit and caused commotion by, among other things, removing the police flag, claiming they use and sell cannabis as part of their religious beliefs and culture.
They argued at the police unit that use of marijuana should be recognised as part of Rastafarian culture and religion.
Rastafarians said they have a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Cannabis is regarded as a “sacred commodity” and “sacrament incense” with authority for its use derived from the Bible, according to the Rastafarian community.
The Rastafarians regard Chamba as a herb originally grown in the Garden of Eden for the use of mankind for religious, culinary and medicinal purposes.