No-case submission in 'Ras Negus' ganja case completed
In this Jamaica Observer file photo the ganja plant, which Rastafarians have always claimed is used as a religious sacrament, grows on a well-kept farm in rural Jamaica.

Attorney Chumu Paris on Friday concluded his no-case submission on behalf of his client, Charles "Ras Negus" Largie, who was on trial for having ganja that was found inside his shop.

The submission was made to sitting parish judge Sasha-Marie Smith-Ashley, who will deliver her verdict on May 11.

Paris emphasised that the prosecution recognises religious freedom and that it is one's obligation to exercise that privilege.

The lawyer also mentioned Largie's caution statement, in which he stated that he does not sell ganja, he only accepts a donation, and that as a Rastafarian he has a right to have ganja.

"The fact that he accepts money does not mean he is not adhering to the Rastafarian faith," Paris argued.

The defence counsel stated that there was no doubt that the ganja was found, but Section 6B of the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015, which speaks to possession of ganja, does not apply to religious purposes as a sacrament in adherence to the Rastafarian faith.

Paris questioned what evidence the court had to conclude that what his client was doing that day was contrary to Rastafarian principles, pointing out that there was evidence in the shop and that Largie had made it clear that it was his sacramental space.

The lawyer said his client had no criminal intent and asked that he not be called upon to answer.

In response to the lawyer's submission, the clerk of court stated that the Crown must fulfil its obligation by providing evidence showing that Largie was in possession of ganja.

"He was the one in control of the premises, he had knowledge of the ganja, and the ganja was under his control," the clerk said.

The clerk also detailed how the ganja was stored, noting that it was kept in glass containers, on shelves, and some packaged in small containers.

The prosecutor also pointed to Section 7C of the Amendment Act, stating that it empowers the court to evaluate whether or not the ganja in Largie's possession was for religious purposes as a sacrament in adherence to the Rastafarian faith, based on the surrounding facts.

References were also made to Largie's utterances under caution in which he declared that he was a Rastafarian with a right to have ganja.

"The qualifying element for a Rastafarian to have ganja is that it must be in adherence to the Rastafarian faith," the clerk said, adding that a Rastafarian's mere possession of ganja was not necessarily for the observance of their faith.

"The Amendment Act, as structured, once possession is proven, he will have to demonstrate to the court that the circumstances under which he was in possession of the ganja was in fact in adherence to his Rastafarian faith," the clerk said.

On that note, the prosecutor stated that there was sufficient evidence that will satisfy the Crown's requirement to prove its case.

Justice Smith-Ashley stated that she needed time to rule and scheduled a hearing for May 11 to do so.

On December 22 last year, police raided Largie's shop and reported that they found two pounds of ganja packaged in three transparent bags, as well as 95 transparent vials and a transparent jar labelled "Rastafarian Cannabis".

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