From the ghettos of Kingston to the tops of the famed Blue Mountains, and all of the swamps, fields, and beaches in between, tens of thousands of “Rastas” — members of Jamaica’s Rastafari Momvement, also called “Rastafarians” — light up on pot while keeping an eye over their shoulder for the police. Soon, those days will be coming to an end, as Jamaica poises to become the next nation to decriminalize marijuana.
For Bunny Wailer, co-founder of Bob Marley and the Wailers, the move to decriminalize pot in Jamaica is long overdue. In an interview with The Associated Press, via the Honolulu Star Adviser, the legendary musician talks about users of “the herb” being persecuted for far too long.
“Rastas have treated marijuana as something legal all along, even though we have been sent to prison for using the herb in our prayer. But this is the time for all these pressures to stop. The world is catching up now.”
For decades, Rastas in Jamaica claim they have been treated like second-class citizens for using pot; for a time, the police would practice at shooting ranges with images of dreadlocked Rastas smoking joints as targets. Even Bunny Wailer himself — whose real name is Neville O’Riley Livingston — did a year of hard labor for possessing pot.
For tourists, enforcement of Jamaica’s pot laws is spotty at best. According to The Guardian, tourists can sign up for pot tours — “You’ll be so high you’ll be talking to Bob Marley himself!” — going from illegal pot farm to illegal pot farm, learning the ins and outs of cultivating various marijuana strains, and getting really, really high. In the gardens outside of Bob Marley’s home in Kingston — a popular tourist destination — marijuana stalks grow openly.
Those tourist dollars are welcome in the cash-strapped island nation. But for Jamaica’s Rastas — estimated at between 20,000 and 100,000, according to Business Week — the situation is different. Jamaica’s largely conservative, Christian population has for decades looked down Rastas, and their government has been hesitant to legalize pot — a sacrament to Rastas, a vice as far as the country’s conservative Christians are concerned.
However, earlier this summer, the Jamaican government began moving towards decriminalization, according to The Huffington Post, largely in response to decriminalization in the U.S. States of Colorado and Washington, and in the nation of Uruguay. In Washington, according to this Inquisitr report, the move to legalize pot has led to millions of dollars in legal pot sales.
For Bunny Wailer, the time to decriminalize pot in Jamaica is long overdue.
“Rastas have gone through a lot of hassles for years, getting criminalized and locked up for using the herb. But things are changing because ganja is what the world needs now.”
The Jamaican government will likely vote on full marijuana decriminalization later this year.