Ganja hurt Jamaica for decades; can it prosper us?

Franklyn
Johnston

Friday, October 11, 2019

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Ganja has been a pervasive and insidious destroyer, not in itself, but through abuse by others. It damaged our economy more than alcohol or tobacco. It destroyed young lives, families, communities, businesses, exports; soured external relations; and its soporific qualities stanched workforce productivity.

The billions spent on interventions, PR campaigns, health care, police, security devices, vehicles, airlift, weed killers, sniffer dogs, and X-ray machines, drained us. We were out of control in ganja smoke, tarnished our brand abroad; even Caricom treated us as pariahs at their borders.

The headline said 'Herbman Hustlings' with singer Autarchii, aka Jermaine Joseph, promoting ganja, saying “the underground ganja industry has benefited countless ghetto families for decades”. ( Observer 09/10/19, Howard Campbell reporting).

Mr Joseph needs knowledge as ganja colted our nation; his ghetto folk hustling a few dollars off other ghetto folk prospered no one. Sir, where are they now? In 1989 Air Jamaica was fined US$28.8 million in Miami for one ganja seizure ( AP April 5, 1989). Ganja buried Air Jamaica and Jamaica (almost) one nail at a time.

Illegal ganja growers drained our blood, so the nation's privation and suffering were horrendous. Yet today we see people in front seats for ganja permits.

In past decades, of what benefit was ganja and to whom? Autarchii says, “Many youths living in poverty use it to escape their harsh reality and it eases their minds from negative thoughts in most instances, as it is a plant that feeds off your vibration…”

So what innovation or value did they add? We must mash-down ignorance or it grows. Ganja growers and middlemen made billions. Yet, as they thrived so did crime, illiteracy, health issues, murders, hunger, squatting and poverty. Was ganja cause or a coincidence? Many youth were cramped for life; they made women “mules”, filling bodily orifices with drugs; some died, others jailed abroad beauty queens, pilots, air hostesses. Sir, was the “vibration” of smoke in your nostrils and lungs worth it?

Then, ganja mash-up businesses and our economy. Did growers invest in Dr Lockhart, Dr West's potions? No! Are they financing Dr Henry Lowe now? No! For decades they hid ganja in exports; farmers' goods were seized in Miami; some went bankrupt. Over 90 private airstrips were blown up by security forces and affected general aviation and rural development. Ganja did not cause economic meltdown, but it is not blameless.

Taxpayers paid US$28.8 million for one fine; 150 Air Jamaica seizures by US Customs from 1980 to 1989; US$37 million in fines between 1989 and 1991; think, national debt. Eastern and Avianca airlines were fined for Colombian cocaine but ganja growers inflicted unceasing pain on Air Jamaica. Wickedness! Do we need truth and reconciliation, then reparations?

Finally, corruption and murders are enduring legacies of this criminal enterprise. The damage of ganja cash on the public service is incalculable; check the corruption index. Growers bribed for permits firearms, drivers, imports; electrical or vehicle inspection; planning approvals, land titles. Many ganja growers were illiterate but they built, bought what they wished then paid public servants to make all legal. Growers say they made no money in ganja, so how come they bought high-end vehicles, big houses, live life, while carrot, scallion, and yam farmers struggle?

Lest we forget, cabinets invested billions to defend us and our borders; sniffer dogs, X-ray machines to scan sea containers or suitcases; created a Port Security Corps to intercept ganja and avoid fines; passed laws; bought expertise, technology, systems. So, when young Autarchii says smoking ganja helped ghetto youth he deserted for New York, forgive him.

Mr Holness, sir, please commission Jamaica 1900 to 2000 from UWI historians so we get all the facts.

Ganja is an enjoyable but pernicious drug of great medical potential, but we may not be in the winners' circle as insightful Dr Lowe has offshored his work. Ganja should be regulated like tobacco, because lungs are not partial as ganja, tobacco and, indeed, Riverton smoke all damage the lungs. Yet smoking ganja may destroy our nation from within, so check the productivity of our 92.1 per cent. Mr Tufton, sir, save us from ourselves.

The old daguerreotype on grandma's dresser had her three brothers in St Mary's misty dawn; men of India stooped in a circle, flowing banana-stained robes, locks brushing the station floor silently smoking weed waiting for the rail car to load bananas. Miss Grange, we need a monument to indentured Indians.

Rasta, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh what a legacy they gave us. Stay conscious!

— Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon) is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); teaches logistics and supply chain management at Mona School of Business and Management, The University of the West indies. franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com


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