Rastafari Rootz Fest to light up Negril
NEGRIL, Westmoreland - The indigenous Rastafari culture and the marijuana plant will take centre stage in the resort town of Negril as of today, when Rastafari In Inity presents the inaugural Rastafari Rootz Fest, which includes hosting the High Times Cannabis Cup at the Long Bay Beach Park.
The four-day event, which ends on Sunday, is expected to rev up economic activities in the town, organisers say.
The festival will climax with an awards ceremony, during which the contestant with the 'highest grade' of marijuana will be crowned Jamaica's 'Best Ganja Farmer'.
"What does it mean to really win the cup? It means it is the best that Jamaica has, and since Jamaica is the best in the world, you then become the best grower in the world," Triston Thompson of Rastafari In Inity told attendees at the launch of the festival at Swept Away Hotel in Negril last week.
He disclosed that the winner from the group of farmers who entered the California, USA contest earlier this year, will be announced during the awards ceremony in Negril on Sunday.
Iyah V of Rastafari In Inity, explained that the festival, where several government agencies are expected to mount educational booths, will also feature workshops that will explicitly provide insight into the Rastafarian faith, adding that seminars on the ganja industry will also be a staple of the festival.
"The history of us as a people, of us as Rastafari has never been told in a clear way. Because people come and write their history based upon their interpretation, or how they vision the culture. Those are some of the things we hope we can use the opportunity of the event to clear up through some of these seminars," said Ras Iyah V, who is also head of the Westmoreland Hemp and Ganja Farmers' Association.
He exuded confidence that the festival will provide economic spin-offs for hoteliers and small business operators in and around the Negril area.
"Everybody here in Negril can benefit, the hoteliers, the factory, drivers, restaurant operators...... everybody can benefit," Iyah V stressed.
He was quick to point out that marijuana has long been one of the "main ingredients" attracting tourists to Negril.
"Let us be honest, the herb has played a very important role in the history of Negril's tourism industry. Negril is known for good herbs, so people come here for that: differently from the white sands, differently from the reggae music, and roots, rock reggae is tied to herbs, which is tied to Rastafari. So I just want ones and ones to be aware of what we have as a product here," the dread -locked Iyah V argued.
The event has been endorsed by the Negril Chamber of Commerce.
"We are very happy and proud to be a part of this movement here in Negril, and we must give special thanks to Iyah V for promoting this thing. The Negril Chamber of Commerce is willing to do whatever we can, whatever role we can play to help and ensure that this thing becomes a success for the entire community," said Daniel Grizzle, the chamber's first vice president.
Iyah V pointed out that the event has the potential to be developed into one of the biggest festivals in Jamaica, and could attract "a massive tourist following".
He disclosed that the American-based High Times has for many years staged the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, and now in some American States, to thousands of patrons.
"They have it California, they have it in Michigan, they have it in Washington. They have it all over, it is a big, big thing," he emphasised.
"When it was held in Colorado, I went there, it was over 20,000 people on Saturday; then Sunday it was 30,000 - odd people. So you can imagine all of these people coming to an event here. We have the potential here to draw that amount of people internationally, but it is how we go about planning our event and how we market it internationally and locally," Ras Iyah V told the Jamaica Observer West.
The entertainment package for the festival gets into high gear tonight with Ganja Music Sound System Salute featuring Gabre Selassie, Mutabaruka's Blakk Music, Gari I of Jah Love and DJ Jesse.
It will also feature performances by Tarrus Riley, Bushman and Jah Bouks, hosted by MC Elise Kelly tomorrow night; and Luciano, I-Wayne, Mighty Diamonds, and Jah Nine, hosted by MC Ron Muschette on Saturday night.
The event is in part, a celebration of the 'Ganja Law' or 'Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015', which was passed by both Houses of Parliament earlier this year.
The law makes the possession of small quantities of ganja a non-arrestable offence, instead it makes it a ticketable infraction that does not result in a criminal record; it permits the use of ganja for religious, medical, scientific, and therapeutic purposes; and it provides for regulation through the granting of licences to permit the development of a lawful industry for medical ganja and industrial hemp.