Ganja supporters apply pressure to lawmakers
Marijuana interests in western Jamaica have ratcheted up pressure on the Government to speed up ganja-law reform in order to sow the seeds of an agricultural revolution that would empower small farmers, boost the domestic economy, and generate foreign exchange through exports.
The Hanover Hemp and Ganja Farmers' Association (HHGFA), which held its first official meeting at Watson Taylor Park in Lucea on Sunday, is the second such organisation to be formed in western Jamaica. It follows on the heels of the establishment of the Westmoreland Hemp and Ganja Farmers' Association, which was officially launched in West End, Negril, in April.
Convener of the HHGFA, Steven Rivierie, said time is running out for Jamaica to capitalise on the economic opportunities from domestic and international trade in ganja.
"Most of us are licensed farmers by RADA (Rural Agricultural Development Authority). Our main goal is to improve the standard of living in our communities and for our families and neighbours as well," Rivierie told Western Focus.
But the Government's intention to decriminalise, not legalise, possession of small amounts of ganja will still make it a ticketable offence which might limit the ambitions of small farmers in Hanover.
"We know at this time there is a demand for ganja and hemp products, yet it's technically illegal. So we would like to sell our products domestically here in Jamaica and also export to earn more foreign exchange. We (Jamaicans) don't want an IMF (International Monetary Fund) loan; we are not beggars ... ; we like to be independent people," Rivierie said.
The HHGFA, which said small farmers need to organise themselves so they aren't swept aside by big cultivators, believes the movement could mushroom across the island.
"Eventually we want to see this movement reaching all 14 parishes in Jamaica. Our next step is to register our association as a cooperative, because we are small farmers.
"We have heard a lot of talk of big farmers with a lot of money and a lot of registered land saying they want so many people under their belt, and they would be willing to give these persons five per cent, and we say, 'We are not going back into the cane piece'. So we have chosen the cooperative model where the farmers will own the business and own and control our destiny," he argued.
Rivierie said his organisation, along with the
WHGFA, would stand up for the rights of the small marijuana farmers and
members of the Rastafari faith, many of whom had been imprisoned for
possession of weed.
"We see that the sky is the limit.
Over the years, we have been marginalised. We have been to prison,
Rastafari people in particular, because herb is our sacrament," Rivierie
The next meeting of the HHGFA is set for
September 14 at the Social Development Commission office at Watson
Taylor Park. Rivierie said following the establishment of the
organisation's executive, the meetings will be extended to other
communities in Hanover.
"Eventually, we will be taking
the meeting out to other areas of the parish to make it convenient for
people to attend and be informed, because we are really about
information - informing the public about our rights and demanding our
rights as Jamaican citizens and taxpayers," he