’nuff ganja no problems for visitors

by Rev. Leeroy James Campbell
Cannabis Culture Magazine, 2, July 1995.

On April 10th, 1991, my wife Jan and I returned to Vancouver after spending eighteen glorious months in paradise. We had gone to Jamaica to continue the research project we started in 1983 to study the effects of marijuana on the human mind and body, and on the family and society at large.

Although we planned to return to Jamaica in as short a time as possible, our dream did not become a reality until forty-four months later on December 4th, 1994, when we arrived at Montego Bay Airport to spend two months in Jamaica, mostly around Ocho Rios, St. Ann. We want to share this beautiful experience with all of our friends and freedom activists.

Our long time friend Junior Haughton of King Fish Tours and Villa Rentals picked us up at the airport and drove about a hundred kilometers to our rental unit in Mammee Bay, about ten kilometers west of the resort town of Ocho Rios on the north coast.

We unloaded our belongings and had Junior drop us off with our friend Rusty in Falkland/Mansfield Heights. The Heights is a recently extended community sitting on a hill overlooking Ocho Rios, where residents miraculously grow plants on stone.

We arrived at Rusty’s place about eight p.m. on a Sunday, and everyone around was in a state of absolute bliss. Someone handed one spliff to Jan and another to me. This was our first toke of Jamaican ganja in forty-four months, and I must tell you that after twenty-four hours of travelling this was a delightfully refreshing and invigorating treat.

We enjoyed the spliffs and inquired about the availability and prices in and around Ocho Rios. We learned that ganja is abundantly available and that price is as variable as quality. For a quarter pound you can expect to pay anywhere from JA$300 to $800 (about CDN$15 to $40).

The vast spread in price certainly does not have anything to do with quality. In Jamaica the free market economy means the seller extorts as much as possible from the buyer. If the product is needed bad enough the buyer will pay the asking price. So it is with ganja or anything else you buy on the island. One way to beat the high prices charged to visitors is to have a trusted native friend do your shopping.

If you are shopping for ganja, be very discreet and don’t buy on the streets. It is a crime to possess, smoke, plant, or have anything to do with ganja in Jamaica.
Jamaican ganja is such a threat to the United States economy that detachments of DEA, CIA, and ATF personnel are permanently attached to the island to ultimately wipe out the ganja industry. Ganja farmers in Jamaica deserve a medal of courage for their resourcefulness. In the face of insurmountable odds they have managed to keep the ganja growing industry alive.

In 1980 the US Government introduced paraquat (Agent Orange, the deadly defoliant used in Vietnam) to the Jamaican government to spray and destroy ganja fields. The spraying continues to this day, even though paraquat was banned in the United States in the late 70’s because of its toxicity and damaging effects upon the human nervous system and reasoning ability.

The Jamaican government, with help from the US, may have succeeded in wiping out a few ganja fields, destroying the economic lifeline of a few farmers and their families, but what is most frightening are the effects of the deadly chemical paraquat on the humans, animals, plants, water supply, and soil exposed to it.

Like the Canadian Le Dain Commission of the early 70’s that recommended decriminalizing marijuana, so also a report commissioned by the Jamaican government in 1972 recommended similar action. Like Canadian politicians, Jamaicans too have to answer to Big Brother/United States. Only American ganja must survive.

In Jamaica, it’s the Dangerous Drugs Law they get you on for possession of ganja, although almost every Jamaican person on the island (including doctors, judges, lawyers, and police officers), uses ganja in one form or another, benefits from ganja in one form or another, and knows that ganja is harmless and is actually the most valuable and beneficial plant on earth for both man and animal.

For two months we continued our research project. We interviewed people who have been smoking ganja for fifty or more years. Their youthfulness, vigor, and wisdom were remarkable.

Offences against the Dangerous Drugs Law are punished by stiff fines and long jail sentences. Although the ganja industry includes people from all levels of society, only the poor are terrorized, have their possessions seized, and are sent to the stinking hell-holes they call prisons.

Jamaican citizens live in absolute fear of the police and soldiers. There are no major resistance or anti-prohibition movements on the island. People don’t talk about ganja. It would appear as though everyone has a thorough knowledge of the many medicinal and healing properties of the plant, but few, very few, know of the many industrial and commercial products that can be produced from the leaves, stalks, and roots of the ganja plant.

What is most outrageously immoral is the blindness and the indifference expressed by politicians and big business. Jamaica is a small island-nation with nearly 45% unemployment, an income level at one twentieth that of the United States, overwhelming poverty, crimes of violence because of paraquat poisoning reaching epidemic proportions, children going without food, and a host of other degrading social conditions. Yet the government continues to criminalize a plant that could erase all the above negatives and create an enormously beneficial multi-dimensional industry, employing several hundred thousand people in clean, non-polluting, energy-saving, life-giving industries.

One must wonder if profits from a police state, where government declares war on its citizens, are so huge that the resultant human tragedies are justified. In view of the apparent blinding conspiracy, right-thinking people everywhere are asked to examine their own conscience with regard to politicians, our political systems, commercial religion, our economic system and prohibition: the Drug War.

Jamaica is a paradise prison for both rich and poor. The prison walls are fear, corruption, uncontrolled violence, and denial, the manifestations of which are seen, heard, and felt everywhere by everyone. Only love, integrity, and compassion can heal the land and its people.

All things considered, the lush scenic beauty, the warmth and friendliness of the country people, the fresh fruits and tasty dishes, the seductive beaches, and the sweet smell of ganja filling the air after dark, all added up to a very pleasant adventure.

The best way to travel with a local companion is by public transportation: mini buses. You can also make the right connections and hire a car and driver for a day trip from the coast to the interior. Finding ganja is not a problem. In most villages, three or four suppliers are well known to everyone except, of course, the police. You are likely to get the very best quality from village suppliers as opposed to buying at beaches, hotels, or guest houses.

In spite of the agonizing threat of going to prison, I was surprised at the expression of freedom by some Jamaicans. They openly smoke a spliff on the street and vocalize their contempt for the immoral law. In fact, it appears that the law also enjoys smoking ganja. Early one evening we stopped at a friend’s shop off the Ocho Rios main road, and were introduced to a fully uniformed police officer sitting in a back room enjoying a spliff the size of a cigar and wrapping a fist-full of ganja in a piece of newspaper which he placed in the baton pouch of his pants.

In one village in St. Ann I went to the store to pick up a newspaper and was invited by a group of young people to have breakfast under a big tree in an open field about two hundred feet off the road. It was about 10am when I arrived. The cook handed me a cup of corn meal porridge and a young priest gave me a giant spliff. This was quite an experience: being with about twenty-five young people at 10 o’clock on a weekday morning, enjoying home grown, home cooked, healthy, nutritious food, listening to Psalms and affirmations, and smoking ganja sitting under a shade tree on the side of a hill overlooking the blue and silver ocean. Is this not joyful living?

One of our hosts and regular companions for our two month stay was Uncle Wallo, a sixty-five year old who started smoking ganja when he was nine. He said he worked in the cane fields for thirty-five years, and that ganja gave him the strength and energy to work fourteen hour days in over thirty degree temperature. Uncle Wallo has not had a sick day for all his sixty five years, and his appearance and agility add up to a good health maintenance program using ganja as a catalyst.

The number of Jamaicans, young and old, who smoke lots of ganja every day is absolutely amazing. Members of the Rastafari faith who use ganja as a religious sacrament have petitioned the government to recognize their religious freedom but have not yet been able to secure a favourable response. Prohibition does not deter them, even though the police often disrupt their worship and haul them off to jail.

In churches, on the streets, and in their homes, Rastafarians are harassed, brutalized, and terrorized by police because of their sacred herb. Yet they continue with indomitable faith to embrace the wisdom and healing benefits of ganja.
As I mentioned before, an anti-prohibitionist movement does not exist in Jamaica, but some very influential voices are being raised in favour of repealing the Jamaican Dangerous Drugs Law. Foremost among them is Dr. Ronald G. Lampart, physician and researcher in St. Thomas (on the eastern end of the island) who in the late 80’s headed a research team of doctors, child psychologists, nurses, and scientists to determine the effects of ganja on the foetus, the unborn child.

The almost seven year project was carried out by the universities of Massachusetts, Miami, and the Carleton University in Ottawa. Funds were provided by the US National Institute of Drug Abuse and the March of Dimes. The study involved sixty pregnant women: thirty ganja smokers and thirty non-ganja, non-cigarette, non-alcohol users. The results were published in The Daily Gleaner, Jamaica’s leading newspaper, and were positively astounding.

The conclusion was drawn that smoking marijuana did not have a single damaging effect on the unborn or mother. After a six year follow-up, all thirty of the ganja babies were shown to be equivalent to the non-ganja babies in all areas of childhood development: growth, motor skills, intelligence, and comprehension.

Another champion of freedom is Dr. Barry Chevannes, a Professor at the University of the West Indies. He regularly and publicly airs his views in the press and wherever else he gets the opportunity to voice his opinion and discontent against the immoral, racist, and oppressive Dangerous Drugs Law.

Over a year ago, Friends International wrote a letter to the Honourable P.J. Patterson, Prime Minister of Jamaica. We requested a thirty day lifting of the ban against ganja use, so as to allow people from all over the world to come together in a spirit of Love and Friendship and celebrate Hempfest ’95 in April. The Prime Minister responded with insults, puritanism, and threats. His letter is proof positive of a nation in total denial, and demonstrates the stranglehold that the United States has on the economy and culture of Central and South America, and the Caribbean Islands.

Strange as it may sound, Jamaican people are looking toward Canada to repeal prohibition and just say “NO” to the lies and propaganda of the United States. Then we will all watch the domino effect of the many falling nations now being held hostage to US imperialism, cultural genocide, and terrorist actions.