Ganja festival to educate, entertain - As RootzFest joins, 'exempt events' permit granted to display, employ herb
The promoters of the Rastafari RootzFest, at the Long Bay Beach Park in Negril, are stepping up the promotion of the three-day-into-night ganja festival by inviting more prominent names from the local and international scene.
Member of the board of directors of the Cannabis Licensing Authority and co-chair of the Rastafari Nyabinghi Administrative Council Verald Vassell, better known as Ras Iyah V, told The Gleaner, "The festival is not only speaking to ganja, but acts as a platform that we use to address the issues of injustice, gender discrimination, and the rights of indigenous people."
"We have the seminars section of the event with persons such as Dr Anthony Hall, neurologist, who believes in cannabis usage, and Professor Charles Nesson (Harvard Law), as well as a human rights lawyer from out of the US, presenting on different subject matters," Ras Iyah V continued.
The event has been endorsed from day one by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and is one of three known festivals, Rebel Salute and Stepping High (also put on in Negril), that has been declared an 'exempt event' and granted a permit for the various presentations that will display and employ ganja.
However, when contacted about the reasons for the continued support of the ganja festival, Essie Gardner, the marketing communications manager at JTB, was unable to provide a comment due to other engagements.
The objective of Rastafari RootzFest is to expose the Jamaican people, Government the and traditional ganja farmers to the cannabis farming industry, internationally; the latest medical findings; and possibly provide advice on how to build a business structure as it relates to the plant.
"It is not about smoking, but informing the people about the health benefits of marijuana traditional uses or how our grass-roots people use it. We want to bring those things to the fore rather than looking at it negatively... also pointing out how best to use it and how not to use it."
One of the things Rastafari RootzFest has emphasised is that it is strictly a non-alcohol event. The food being prepared is healthy, ital food - absolutely no meat or fish. Businesses from Kingston such as Mi Hungry from Market Place, Ashanti Vegetarian Restaurant, and Veggie Meals on Wheels are on board to provide natural menus.
"Also, being a Rastafari event, we want to complete the daytime activities with conscious music in the night. People regard it as a mature event and we the promoters are acting in the most responsible ways where nation building is concerned," Ras Iyah V said.
...Advocate with music
Many of the recording artistes booked for the 'Three Nights of Music' segment at the Rastafari RootzFest are either of Rastafari faith, or more significantly, have advocated for the legalisation of ganja and to educate persons about the benefits of the plant through the lyrics of their music.
"The Mighty Diamonds from long time ago said, 'Pass the kutchie pon the lef hand side', and we have others like Bushman that have a long track list of songs dedicated to ganja," Ras Iyah V said.
Tabby of Mighty Diamonds and Bushman are to perform on the first night - Friday, December 15.
Last year, the promoters of Rastafari RootzFest acknowledged Peter Tosh for standing out musically in defense of marijuana, and this year, the Ganjamaica Cup - the awards segment held on the final day - will pay tribute to him again. His daughter, Niambe Tosh, will also speak to the audience.
Ras Iyah V said: "What has happened over the years is, whatever comes out of our people that makes up our culture has been looked down on by society people. Peter Tosh spoke about the benefits of ganja to cure glaucoma (in the single Bush Doctor), and now it is coming to the fore and even spoke about the hazards of cigarette smoking. We recognise now that Peter was not talking foolishness."
He continued to explain that tobacco smoking and consumption of alcohol are still socially acceptable despite repercussions such as various pulmonary diseases and death.
"As Rastafari, we don't look on ganja as a drug, but as a plant. Yes, it has psychoactive ingredients, but like ackee, if you are not careful with it, it can be harmful. So people will smoke ganja, but the event is to share the health and wellness point of views."
Other artistes booked to perform are Admiral Tibet (Friday); Capleton, Kabaka Pyramid, Michie Mee from Canada (Saturday); and Leroy Sibbles, Bescenta, Dre Tosh, grandson of Peter Tosh (Sunday), among many other influential acts.