Learning on the 'herb curb'
From left: Patrick Barrett ('Tony Rebel') CEO, Organic HEART; Carole Beckford, Independent communications consultant, and Jahyudah Barrett, director, Organic HEART. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

MANY people know Rebel Salute as one of Jamaica's biggest music festivals, characterised by rich Jamaican music and an emphasis on healthy eating and lifestyle.

But the festival isn't only about showcasing the best of Jamaica's reggae music. Founder and organiser Patrick Barrett, popularly known as Tony Rebel, told the Jamaica Observer that the festival is also big on highlighting Rastafarian culture and the many benefits of marijuana.

He said the idea to include a component of the festival which focuses on educating patrons about marijuana became a reality after 2015 when the Government of Jamaica passed legislation which decriminalised the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

It meant that Jamaicans were allowed to have possession of up to 2oz (57g) of marijuana without prosecution from law enforcers.

With that said, the only festival which was known to fully embrace Rastafarian traditions and culture moved to acquire permits to showcase the herb at the festival for the edification of patrons.

Barrett said Rebel Salute was able to secure the permit on the premise that the festival is an event associated with Rastafarians, who use marijuana for religious purposes.

But he said there was a caveat.

"It is written in what we get from the ministry that we can't sell marijuana."

The restriction places a significant impediment on earning from the herb, which Barrett outlined as an injustice.

"If the pastor who is doing communion wants to give his church members a glass of wine and a piece of bread, you have to buy it! Therefore, if somebody is dealing with herbs, you have to pay somebody to plant it and reap it, so money should be made from it also," he argued.

However, while the festival is not allowed to rake in earnings from the sale of marijuana, Barrett has capitalised on educating patrons on the efficacy and benefits of medicinal marijuana in what he calls the "herb curb".

Put simply, the herb curb is a feature of Rebel Salute which showcases companies involved in the medicinal marijuana business and provides general knowledge about their products and byproducts that are made from marijuana.

"For me personally, and from what I have seen, the herb curb is intended to change the perspective of the general public about marijuana…it's seen as dangerous, it's seen as, 'Oh, if you smoke it you gonna get mad.' It's set up in such a way to encourage discussions on the benefits of the use of marijuana and how it can benefit everybody," said Jahyudah Barrett, daughter of Tony Rebel and organiser of the festival.

She explained there's also a forum held on the Saturday of the two-day festival which gives patrons the opportunity to pose questions about marijuana to marijuana experts who are invited to the forum.

"We have doctors there; you know people trust those with medical qualifications. So if a doctor says it can be used and it should be used for asthma but use the oil, people will listen. So, we make sure that we have those persons that will help to convince the general public," she added.

At the same time, Tony Rebel noted that the herb curb is also about equipping patrons with general knowledge which debunks some of the myths about marijuana in the public domain.

"One of the main things we do at the herb curb is to educate people about marijuana. Marijuana can make 25,000 different products; in America the first constitution was written on hemp paper. You call places Hempstead and Hempville because they planted hemp. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington used to ask people to plant one in their backyard. Every sail on ships, rope, all of that were made from hemp. When you have hemp clothes it will last, it's more durable. We educate the people about it, the medicinal part of it, the therapeutic part of it, the economical part of it, and the spiritual part of it. When you come to a Rebel Salute you don't find people just rubbing out their hand. We have a forum during the festival where we get ministers and people who are aware of ganja to come and speak," Barrett informed.

He said popular medicinal marijuana firms like Epican and Jacana are among the companies that have set up booths at the event over the years, aiding in the educational process.

But he stressed it's unfair that they are unable to earn from the festival and are barred from banking whatever they make otherwise, even though they are legitimate companies.

"The de-risking thing is not a good vibe because you have whole heap a people who sell all kinds of things and because you don't know, they can always bank their money and so forth [without any problems]. But just because you know it's marijuana, you're going to say it can't be banked!" Barrett lamented.

However, he said he remains hopeful things will change for the better soon, with signs of more states in the US allowing marijuana-related companies to bank legitimately.

Andrew Laidley

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