‘Only Rastas should smoke the holy herb’

“Why don’t you give Ras­tas a break?”

This was the ques­tion wire bend­ing spe­cial­ist Claude “Swa­mi” Jef­fers posed to At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi dur­ing the first na­tion­al con­sul­ta­tion on the de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of mar­i­jua­na.

Jef­fers said for years Rasta­far­i­ans have been tor­ment­ed for us­ing the “holy herb”.

“We say our prayers with it, we med­i­tate with it, we search for wis­dom knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing with it, we use the mar­i­jua­na dif­fer­ent­ly from how the in­fi­dels use it, and there are no such things as recre­ation­al mar­i­jua­na when a Ras­ta­man is con­cerned,” Jef­fers said.

Jef­fers said Ras­tas use mar­i­jua­na dur­ing their prayers and not with al­co­hol or to­bac­co.

“It was not meant for every­body, as a mat­ter of fact, it should on­ly be for Ras­tas to smoke,” Jef­fers said.

Jef­fers was among the hun­dreds who were at the Lord Kitch­en­er Au­di­to­ri­um at NA­PA yes­ter­day to have their voic­es heard on the is­sue of the chang­ing of mar­i­jua­na laws in T&T.

As at­ten­dees en­tered NA­PA yes­ter­day they were greet­ed by sev­er­al booths giv­ing away prod­ucts from com­pa­nies such as Blue Wa­ters, Yoplait, and Col­cafe.

None were in­fused with cannabis.

The con­sul­ta­tion start­ed at 1.33 pm and At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi gave a pre­sen­ta­tion that last­ed just over an hour.

Then the floor was opened to ques­tions and com­ments from the au­di­ence.

For­mer at­tor­ney gen­er­al Garvin Nicholas said the war against drugs was a waste of time and ap­plaud­ed the Gov­ern­ment for be­gin­ning dis­cus­sion on the is­sue of de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion.

For­mer Su­per­mar­ket As­so­ci­a­tion head, Bal­li­ram Ma­haraj who came to the con­sul­ta­tion in a wheel­chair be­cause of a frac­tured foot, said he ful­ly sup­port­ed mar­i­jua­na de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion.

How­ev­er, not all in at­ten­dance were con­vinced that de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion is the way for T&T to go.

Pas­tor Leslie Moses, pres­i­dent of the Sev­enth Day Ad­ven­tist (SDA) church­es said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was say­ing no to the de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of mar­i­jua­na and called for the Gov­ern­ment to think again on the is­sue.

“We are very con­cerned about the im­pact the le­gal­i­sa­tion or the de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of mar­i­jua­na will have on the pub­lic health costs that are as­so­ci­at­ed with deal­ing with this sit­u­a­tion. It is es­sen­tial to bear in mind that the use of mar­i­jua­na in adults and chil­dren have lead to long-term psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects that are not pos­i­tive and that can cre­ate is­sues that we will have to deal with lat­er,” Moses said.

“We ad­vise out good Gov­ern­ment to think again about the de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of mar­i­jua­na,” Moses said.

Moses said the SDA does not have a po­si­tion on med­ical mar­i­jua­na as yet. He said as re­search on the mat­ter pro­ceeds the SDA will say whether or not they agree on that is­sue.

Ak­i­lah Hold­er, of the Trinidad and To­ba­go Coun­cil for Evan­gel­i­cal Church­es, said a re­form of the jus­tice sys­tem is nec­es­sary but that the de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of mar­i­jua­na was not nec­es­sar­i­ly the best way to go about with it.

“We would like the Gov­ern­ment to be care­ful not to turn this in­to one of mar­i­jua­na but about re­form­ing the jus­tice sys­tem,” she said.

- by Joel Julien. Photo by Anisto Alves.