Jamaica has always been closely linked to cannabis, to understand the story it is important to know that Jamaica is home to the Rastafari culture where the cannabis known as ‘ganja’ is very symbolic. Moreover, Jamaica is where Reggae music was born and very often the lyrics in this music style promote the Rastafari culture and cannabis. This have made cannabis omnipresent in the all the cultural aspects of this beautiful country. What is the story between cannabis and Jamaica that makes it so special?
What is Rastafari?
The Rastafari movement is a religion which was born in Jamaica during the 1930s. It does not have authority hierarchy ( like the Vatican for christians) and its followers are known as Rastafarians or Rastas.
The Rastafarians believe in a single god reffered as Jah, it started when the jamaican Marcus Garvey created the movement ‘Back To Africa’ in the 1920s to promote the freedom and emancipation of African people. He had the strong belief that one day there would be the crowning of an African King which would stop the oppression of his people. In the 1930s Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned as the ruler of Ethiopia to become Haile Selassie I. This was perceived by many as Garvey’s prophecy (or premonition) being fullfiled.
The Rastafari culture, Cannabis and Jamaica.
Other than having dreadlocks, Rastafarians consider cannabis to have a prominent place in their culture. It is also known as ganja, this word derived from the hindi word ganjha, which in Sanskrit is reffered as a strong preparation from cannabis Sativa. Rastafarians highly disapprove the use of cannabis for recreational purpose, they believe that the sacred herb should only be used for meditation.
During religious meetings called ‘reasoning sessions’ which include group meditation, the Rastafarians consume the cannabis to enter a state of trance. This blissful sensation is considered to help them be more connected to the cosmos and have a clear view of the world.
After smoking, with an enhanced consciousness they debate about life according to the Rastafari creeds and become more connected to Jah. Despite that only 1% of Jamaica’s population ( 2.7millions persons) are Rastafarians, it is believed that the culture has a strong contribution to the story between cannabis and Jamaica.
Reggae music, Cannabis and Jamaica
Reggae music is the emblem of Jamaica, created in the 1960s it has been widely mediatized around the world thanks to one of the greatest Jamaican singer Bob Marley. The artist also recognzied cannabis as a way to connect with spirituality and not something to be consumed for recreation.
Very often Bob Marley was seen smoking joints in his dressing room before his performances. It was said that the ‘high’ effects had a great influence on his musical performance. The proof is that this artist, who smoked cannabis, meditated and rethink the world has written some of the most powerful lyrics and became the greatest legend we ever know.
Many reggae artists like him or Peter Tosh promoted the Rastafari culture through their music and directly or indirectly this has raised awareness about the holy herb! If you listened to some reggae music I am sure that at some point you came across terms which relate to cannabis. This is why many people make connections with reggae music, cannabis and Jamaica.
The legal status of Cannabis in Jamaica
Surprisingly the consumption of cannabis in Jamaica has only been decriminalized in 2015, its use is now legal for medical but also for religious purpose. Jamaica became the first country to legalize weeds for religious purposes; this was more than favorably welcomed by the Rastafarians who use it for spiritual rites.
There, the possesion of up to 57grams of weeds is only considered as a petty offence and will not result in criminal records. Moreoever Jamaicans are allowed to cultivate up to five plants and tourists with medical prescription can apply for a licence to buy cannabis in small quantities.
Being aware of the boom of the cannabis industry the Jamaican government has shown its interest to set up an authority for the regulation of cannabis cultivation on large scale, for medical purpose.
The country is also targeting international cannabis trade; thanks to its latitude, ideal climate and land topography, it is possible to grow high quality plants, specially sativas. This predict that cannabis and Jamaica still have a long future to go!
Final words on cannabis and Jamaica
The Rasfari culture and reggae music are the touchstones of the Jamaican culture, and this is why the country is tightly linked to cannabis. Its use was primarily for spiritual purposes and though there are many stereotypes it is important to note that not all Jamaicans are weeds smokers and/or Rasfarians and that they do not listen to reggae music only.
What we can learn from the story of cannabis and Jamaica is that despite it is very often perceived as a recreational drug, cannabis has impregnated the country’s culture and do have some noble uses like in the Rastafarian culture.
I hope you enjoyed this article and will be glad to hear about your views! I leave you with the remix of one of Bob Marley’s greatest song 🙂
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