Sun | Mar 26, 2023

Gordon Robinson | The “bongo les” defence

Published:Tuesday | March 14, 2023 | 12:16 AM
In this 2016 photo, ganja is being grown at a farm at the University of Technology, Jamaica
In this 2016 photo, ganja is being grown at a farm at the University of Technology, Jamaica

When we were teenagers, Gene Autry’s father employed a full time driver – an elderly gentleman named Leslie.

Gene nicknamed him “Bongo Les”. For the life of me I can’t remember why. I asked Gene who, like me these days, struggles to remember what he ate for breakfast. He also can’t remember. But the name stuck. Bongo Les had an affinity for J. Wray and all his nephews. This made his driving, especially late at night when he was called into extra duties to transport us to and from whatever late night non-activities we got up to, erratic (not dangerous).

Whenever we accused Bongo Les of being not very compos mentis his defence was always the same “I spent forty-four years in the army!” Don’t ask me how that addressed the accusation. It didn’t. But it was Bongo Les’ go-to defence.

Bongo Les came to mind as I watched Star Boy Aubyn waffling through his public defence of Government’s permitting a private entity to import ganja. WHAT? Import GANJA? To JAMAICA? Somebody must be high!

Star Boy’s best defence was that “only forty-four pounds” of ganja was actually imported for five of the importer’s “outlets”. Only Bongo Les could explain what the guggoleego that had to do with an allegation that ganja shouldn’t be imported. Jamaicans are the world’s best producer of high quality weed who struggled for years against government oppression, pervasive bigotry and social stigma. Now there’s the tiniest window opened for them to see some benefit from decades of resistance, they must suck salt while some topanaris is allowed to IMPORT?

A horseracing pal would say “sump’n inna sump’n.”

Much ado was made of the definition of “commercial quantities” but any quantity headed for commercial “outlets” is a commercial quantity. Also, since the Permit purported to allow the Licensee to import more than 300 pounds of ganja (seven times 44), this was likely intended, before the public uproar, as the first shipment of many. Sounds like a commercial intent to me.

Like Nigel, Star Boy Aubyn was anxious to distance himself from his regulatory agency the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA). One popular member of broadcast media actually swallowed (or appeared to swallow) Star Boy’s meandering misdirection and was heard to opine “the granting of the licence to import ganja is entirely in the hands of the CLA and not the political executive.”


The lack of knowledge of basic civics in Jamaica is almost as embarrassing as the apparent anxiety to defend the political Executive. CLA is very much a part of the political Executive. It’s appointed by the political Executive to implement the Executive’s policy direction. In that regard it may be operationally independent (notionally) but is Government’s agent. CLA cannot grant any licence that’s contrary to Government policy. If it did it would (or should) be summarily dismissed by the Minister who appointed it.

In real life few Statutory Agencies are actually allowed to operate independently and are subject to constant political interference. Very few Ministers are stupid enough to openly or directly interfere which is why almost every statutory board contains a political supporter appointed by the Minister whose fervent belief is his/her purpose is to carry go bring come.

Let’s take a quick look at legal developments since 2015 when the Dangerous Drugs Act was amended to create CLA and empower the Minister, by order, to authorise import into Jamaica of ANY GANJA PLANT (my emphasis) or part thereof “in furtherance of scientific research undertaken by an institution (tertiary or approved by Scientific Research Council)” or third party engaged by such institution.

On July 17, 2022, CLA gazetted “Regulations” which purported to permit CLA to grant permits for “importation of ganja” ( Regulation 8). But the principal Act only permitted CLA to make Regulations for “handling” of “ganja for medical, therapeutic or scientific purposes.” Within months, 300 plus pounds of weed coming een di harbour like seven miles of Black Star liners. Was Fred Locks a prophet? But these shipments aren’t for black liberation but likely to satisfy corporate greed. Ras Karbi ( Discrimination) put it best:

Long hair freaky people need not apply.

No need no ol’ nayga; no rastafari!

Let me be clear. Except for established research purposes not one ounce of ganja should be imported into Jamaica. This entire “licensing” process seems to me to be something needing deeper investigative journalism than this old, broken down Supreme Court hack has time or ability to undertake.

Erica, Jovan, Kimone over to you.

Peace and Love.

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to