Ras­tas protest the seiz­ing of sacra­men­tal ganja

Jamaica Gleaner - - WESTERN FOCUS - Okoye Henry Gleaner Writer

SCORES OF Rasta­far­i­ans protested in front of the Bar­nett Street Po­lice Sta­tion in Mon­tego Bay, re­cently, fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent in which the po­lice seized 10 pounds of ganja from an el­derly Rasta­far­ian who was on his way to a Nyah­bingni cel­e­bra­tion to mark the an­niver­sary of the coro­na­tion of Em­peror Haile Se­lassie I.

The plac­ard-bear­ing Rasta­far­i­ans, clad in their trade­mark red, green, and gold cloth­ing, said that the ac­tion by the po­lice was an “act of sac­ri­lege” as it in­fringed on their right to use ganja as a re­li­gious sacra­ment.

“Ac­cord­ing to the amend­ment Ras­tas protest in front of the Bar­nett Street Po­lice Sta­tion. of the Drug Act last year, it en­ti­tles Rasta­fari to the free­dom to travel to Rasta­fari cel­e­bra­tions with herb,” said prom­i­nent Rasta­far­ian leader Ras Iyah V, who is the co-chair of the Rasta­fari Ad­min­is­tra­tive Coun­cil.

Iyah V said when he spoke to a deputy po­lice in­spec­tor at the po­lice sta­tion, he was shocked to learn that there was no record to sug­gest that the ganja in ques­tion had been taken away from the el­derly Rasta­far­ian.

“He is say­ing that he doesn’t have any knowl­edge or re­port. The herb is nowhere to be found,” said Iyah V, who also sits on the board of the Cannabis Li­cens­ing Au­thor­ity (CLA). “We are not naive. We know the herb was taken away to be sold be­cause it is not here and there is no re­port as to what happened to the ganja.”

TIRED

“We are tired of be­ing taken for fools be­cause that is how we have to see it – that our con­sti­tu­tional rights con­tinue to be vi­o­lated,” added Iyah V.

Bongo Beard, the Rastafa­ian from whom the ganja was taken, said he tried to ex­plained his rea­sons for hav­ing the ganja, but the of­fi­cers in­stead took him to the sta­tion. He said he spent an hour and half at the sta­tion where, af­ter much deliberation he was told by an of­fi­cer to go, mi­nus the ganja, which they kept.

“A man come out – a con­sta­ble and say, ‘Rasta, a you know say a me in charge of ev­ery­thing yah now. Take yuh bag and gwaan and left the weed,” Bongo Beard said.

The Rasta­far­i­ans say they plan to raise the mat­ter with the Min­istry of Jus­tice, the Min­istry of National Se­cu­rity, and the Min­istry of Cul­ture, and if needs be, with the prime min­is­ter.

“We don’t want to be con­fronta­tional, but if the time comes, we will. So we are say­ing to the Gov­ern­ment, deal with it in the right and proper way. Don’t make we have to take to the street be­cause if we do, we can eas­ily up­set the Ja­maican econ­omy, the tourist mar­ket, and that won’t be good for them,” warned Iyah V.

PHOTO BY OKOYE HENRY

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