By Conley Rose
The poor and working people, farmers, unemployed, dreads and Rastafarian brethren and sistren, of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have had a long history of struggle for the legalization of cannabis in this blessed country.
The “War on Drugs” as outlined by the US Anti-Narcotics Bureau and agreed upon by international agreements and treaties and implemented by governments around the world for over 100 years, has had devastating consequences for small developing countries such as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in terms of “Prohibition” and the “Dangerous Drug Act”, the prosecution of individuals for cannabis.
From the early 60s, cannabis was smoked discreetly by Vincentians, but by the early 70s, with the rise of consciousness and the “Black Power” Movement in the Caribbean and North America, cannabis was openly smoked by youths and adults on various blocks and ghetto communities as recreation and a form of protest and rebellion against the status quo, dress code and hairstyles followed.
This rebellion mushroomed into the birth of Rastafari and several black conscious and revolutionary organizations in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The establishment did not take kindly to this apparent, new found freedom by the youths in both the urban and rural areas of the island, clamouring for change and legalization of cannabis on the island.
The police cracked down on cannabis use, sale and trafficking with force and depression, the “War on Drugs” and in particular, cannabis growing and cultivation became brutal, and hundreds of Vincentians have suffered the persecution, prison, count fines, denial of opportunities, and death, in the mountains and on the high seas trying to smuggle cannabis into neighbouring countries.
The struggle for legalization was becoming intense and several political organizations and intellectuals were agitating for law reform and removal of the prohibition laws for cannabis.
Pickets, demonstrations, marches, leaflets, pamphlets, posters, T-shirts, flags and the African Drums were used for rallies and public meetings to highlight police brutality, victimisation and injustice to cannabis growers and users among the lower-class people.
Cannabis farmers, traffickers and supporters begun protesting against the Marijuana eradication exercises by the US military and the regional security services (RSS) over consecutive years of operation.
The growth and spread of the Rastafarian Movement have been a consistent factor in the struggle for legalization of cannabis in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Rastafarians organised a regional conference in St. Vincent to highlight that criminal prohibition of cannabis has failed and that the “Holy Herb” must be legalized.
Several local organizations and individuals have written in support of legalization and today there is more tolerance and acceptance of cannabis in the society. Too much money is spent on prosecution and to little on prevention and rehabilitation.
Decriminalization is not a magic solution that solves all our problems of cannabis, but it is a step in the right direction with introducing medicinal cannabis.