To Free or not to Free! For years the debate over Ganja has been raging and the recent ruling in Canada has added more fuel. Our regular columnist Philip Dinham gives us his insight on the debate
Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Free The Weed

Weed, Pot, Ganja, Marijuana, Herb, Mary Jane, Cannabis, Sensimilla, just some of the names given to a plant that is worshipped by some and seized, then destroyed by others.

The sacrament of Rastafarians, marijuana has been outlawed for private use in many countries of the western world.

Many Jamaicans who live their life by the Rasta philosophies, continue to be outraged by the continued oppression and profiling they face from the system of law and order.

Health officials have for decades outlawed the organic plant, citing it as an addictive substance, labeling it a destructive drug that can harm the mental and physiological systems and development of the body.

This has however, not halted mass appeal for the use of the narcotic. In fact recent studies have shown a twofold increase in the use among North Americans and European’s over a decade ago. It’s an interesting debate that has been looming heavier on national agenda’s outside tiny Jamaica, as the plant is now being grown and packaged for distribution, from diverse locations across the planet.

Some have been arguing that the liberal cults relaxing of laws in the UK, Canada and many European capitals including Amsterdam is a sign of the changing tide. Even while in most cases, the laws were changed to favour medicinal uses, the frenzy is helping to add new life to a mystical retro product.

In the United States Congressional Election held last Tuesday, November 5, 2002. Pot featured on several ballots, as the most liberal started to wager in on the prospects of freeing up the banned and often criminalized herb.

For the cynics, there is much to be concerned about because for years ordinary Jamaicans, at the micro community and macro international community level have been subject to the penalties of an unjust law. Being severely punished for partaking of a custom which one could easily argue is a fundamental right. Rights of passage for the males, as well as religious right for the individual who attest to be a Rastafarian.

There is enough documentation and studies both from national and foreign institutions, to show that citizens of this country in almost every district and town have been exposed to a culture and a philosophy and natural religion that is endemic to their national identity.

Most Jamaicans don’t follow or don’t agree with this law whether in principle or in practice, yet in a populist democracy, the government has stayed away from fully consulting the public on the matter of their livity concerns. This in itself makes it obvious that the policy surrounding Jamaican people is being directed str8 from Babylon central, Washington DC.

How does a national policy become perverted by a international policy? the Jamaican state needs to explain itself. How can a human right such as applying a dietary supplement in tea, cuisine and beverage or a religious right to smoke the herb, be taken away even when Governmental organizations have recorded and accept these practices as natural customs among the people?

The nation and people of Jamaica are subject to decertification by the US State Department if it doesn’t show that it is fully in agreement, complying with the Drug Enforcement Agency and US international fight against banned substances such as the herbs. Such action by the US would pinch away before sqashing our pocketbooks, as decreased aid and support would destabalize the Jamaican economy, as the US remains a major trading partner and friend of Jamaica.

The sectarian mystical religious groups like Rastafarians, Pocomania and Revivalism, have been disgruntled and ostracized for decades and no one has come to their aid. Political parties have only used and abused these fundamentalist religions, grabbing unto their theme and language, only to further divide and control the roots people.

This is nothing but hypocrisy, for why should plantocracy yuppies of the distilled liquor estates, beer breweries and cigarette junkies continue to be given license to corrupt and exploit our youths minds with a lifestyle and culture that is not in keeping with the natural identity of Jamaicans?

The debilitating health concern as evidence against these un-banned substances of alcohol and nicotine have become more staggering in recent times. Most young adults consume more alcohol, smoke more nicotine as a result of glamorized secular values of a consumer ethic than does a young Bobo-dread, who is deeply involved in a holy pilgrimage to his God.

The Ganja Commission headed by professor Barry Chevannes, the Dean of Social Sciences at Mona’s University of the West Indies in Kingston, is most concerned about this inequitable and unjust stand by government. The commission, an official body, has called for the decriminalization of the plant when found in small amounts. Chevannes has laid the arguements fairly on the table for government leaders, making it abundantly clear that the government is frustrating the life of nationals. Recently, a 92 years old man was summoned before the Jamaican courts for smoking a spliff. The man, who said he was a devout Rasta, was jailed and then prosecuted in normal procedure following the rule of law.

How can a national religious movement, that has soundly contributed to the national resources, increasing the stakes and stability of the community through greater exchange and integration of ideas along racial tolerance lines, embracing truth, rights and justice, be hauled and persecuted in this manner?

Politicians, Academia and Historians have celebrated Rastafarians in terms of their creative ethic, voluntary simplicity, teachings of charity, artistic flair in craft and music.These supportive voices we normally hear during electioneering or during the throne speeches of Parliament or Royal fetes at Kings House, are merely being politically correct, we are told. For the ruling class of Jamaica says it fully embraces the fundamental origin of this mystical group. Yet like Governors, Aristocrats and Monarchs before, who have ceremoniously put young prophets and Kings of Kings on trial, our “backra” public servants seem to be no different. Their oppression is unrelenting, abusing men for teachings they submit to, as a matter of sovereign authority based on biblical, natural and racial philosophies, scripted with the words and teachings of our first national hero, Marcus Garvey.

It is disgraceful what has happened in this country, for the clergy and leaders of the local Christian Church have watched the government employ discriminatory action against a group of helpless souls. Police ripping of cloak as they beat men for their beliefs, cutting their locks and slamming them behind bars for being in the possession of a spliff.

Priest and Pastors who should have realized that with Rastafarian ideology being so noticeably similar to Christian beliefs in principle, following soundly, old testament and new testament teachings as an application of truth. That they had and still have a role to play in liberating a faithful people, relieving many souls from the adversaries, they, as a challenged generation are facing as a part of an underclass.

It’s obvious that even with the formation of the movement of Rastafari, many within the group, while tasting their new wine, had not officially set out to be an organized religion, for they were prepared to continue the exchange of ideas with other peaceful and noble men.

For many unanswered questions existed as they do today and many secret hierarchies surround Christian religion, as it has made its way through dark and modern ages.

The history of the world has been written by the mighty and powerful and many times they exploit the truth, spinning and framing words and attitudes for one reason or the other.

The sons of African slaves having faced centuries of oppression and waking up to a system pretty much similar to colonialism, at the birth of independence must have been concerned about the complex question of race and whether the oppressive racial disorder was or is it still lying to them. It has been proven that they a wicked race, having written history to suit their fight for upwardly mobile conquest while stealing our birthright.

Jamaica and the rest of the now free West Indies has at its disposal, universities of higher learning, where men and women often gather to reason, so why haven’t we tried to continue the dialogue in a reasonable manner? Rastafarians remain disillusioned by organized worship because of the history they have read. A world where organized churches and patriarchal societies have floundered into moral depravity. For them, life is a pilgrimage, a natural walk with the Almighty, while sowing seeds of love and lighting a spliff two times a day, while shouting to their majesty.

As I try to view a sharp reflection or resemblance with the Christ like faith brothers, I am seeing now a clergy who has not even tried to find out for a fact if Marijuana is harmful if used in moderate quantities. We have old men who are dogged into keeping their faith bent on doctrines that have been interpreted in far away lands. These Bishops, Reverends andMinisters have only scratched the surface in trying to apply the reality of a natural God to the Jamaican people. They could have delivered a more abundant message of blessing to our nation long ago, vested in love, peace and unity and dependent on equality and justice. However, their mission was to scorn the things that may have well been celestial. They have scoffed at the heart of our mutual interdependence and thus share in the communities distress.

The denominations have joined with the political hierarchy in judging a religious movement of people without trying to fully understand or appreciate the move towards a greater renewal of the holy natural spirit of the creator.

In late March 2003 the tide turned. Commissioner Francis Forbes made it clear that he thought the Government needed to be more aggressive in its enforcement of Ganja laws or consider decriminalizing the weed. This Chief of Police said local policemen were spending too much time arresting people for a ganja spliff, which only carries a $J100 dollar fine.

Commissioner Forbes argued that, “The law should be changed, as what happens now is a waste of time for the police.”

The decriminalization of Ganja seems bound to happen, in fact just yesterday in an interview with the BBC, Professor Chevannes cautioned that Jamaicans would be told clearly where it would be okay for them to use the drug when the law comes to pass.

He said there was also a need to try to discourage young people, particularly school children from smoking the weed. The commission is now working on a sensitization public relations program aimed specifically at young people.

Attorney General Senator AJ Nicholson, stated recently that the Government was preparing legislation to give effect to the proposed decriminalization and so the politicians may well be advanced in providing the frame work for new realities, yet the church and Christian zealots seem far removed from the process.

It’s never too late to respond to failures of the past. Today I urge all well thinking Jamaicans to understand that while the word of God is true and shall stand for all eternity, it’s the radically misguided interpretations, the self righteous men and woman who are leading the flock astray.

We owe it to our God, the one who we have a relationship with, the one with who said, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone”, to renew the call for repentance among our people. By reconciliation and national atonement and groundation, we will indeed find God’s purpose for Zion’s family, that our deliverance shall indeed come, allowing us to step out of Babylon into new Jerusalem together.

About the author

Phil Dinham