Ganja farmer says 'big man' will overrun small growers

Crime affecting ganja sales, says marijuana farmer

BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive editor special assignment allend@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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A Westmoreland ganja farmer and devotee of the late reggae superstar Peter Tosh, who advocated legalisation of the weed, has urged authorities not to go that route.


Ras Puddler, who sold ganja spliffs and smoked a fat chillum pipe openly Sunday at the ‘Peter Tosh Earthstrong’ concert near Belmont, Westmoreland, the singer’s birthplace, did not mince words in opposing the legalisation of marijuana.


"I don’t want ganja to be legalised. They should go no further than decriminalise it, so that the police will not have to harass me for my spliff," Ras Puddler told the Jamaica Observer.


Puddler’s reason for taking a position which appears to be contrary to the popular cry for legalisation of the weed is that large farmers would put vast acreages of ganja under cultivation and quickly force the small planter out of the business.


"What is going to happen if dem legalise it is that I, and others like me, will be used like slaves by the ‘big man’ to grow his crop. No sah, I don’t want it legalised," declared Puddler.


At the same time, Puddler, who wanted to be photographed smoking his chillum pipe, said ganja farming in Westmoreland was in the doldrums, as crime was forcing away visitors who used to flock the parish to purchase the weed.


He said the price of a spliff (ganja cigarette) was now averaging $50, down from $100 or more, while a pound of ganja, which used to fetch $5,000 or more, was down to $4,000 or less. He said that, two months ago, he reaped 50 pounds of the herb and still had supplies from that crop, which was unusual.


"We just not getting anything from it because of the crime. People not coming again to buy like they used to," complained Puddler.


The Rastaman’s utterances run counter to Jamaica’s growing lobby for legalisation of ganja which appears to be gaining bi-partisan support in the Parliament.


Damion Crawford, People’s National Party (PNP) member of parliament (MP) for East Rural St Andrew, and Opposition MP for West Portland Daryl Vaz recently found common cause in the unfolding parliamentary debate on the decriminalisation of ganja.


Crawford said persons should not have police records because of an offence related to the use of ganja, while Vaz urged the Parliament to adopt some of the recommendations of the National Commission on Ganja, including decriminalisation.


The commission, first headed by the late Professor Barry Chevannes, recommended that the relevant laws be amended so that ganja be decriminalised for private, personal use of small quantities by adults.


Well known PNP executive Paul Burke, and Delano Seiveright, former president of the Jamaica Labour Party affiliate G2K, co-exist as members of the three-yearold Ganja Law Reform Coalition, which advocates legalisation. Seiveright is currently in Denver, Colorado — the first American state to legalise ganja — where he is representing the coalition at the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, at the invitation of the New York City-based Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).


The DPA is headed by Dr Ethan Nadelmann, who visited Jamaica in August to promote the legalisation of ganja here.


Proponents of legalisation argue that Jamaica could make serious money from ganja, which could impact the economy well beyond any loans from the International Monetary Fund.

  

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