Rastafarian priests stand by jailed St Thomas ganja farmer
Members of the Rastafarian faith group, Ethiopian African Black International Congress (EABIC), have come out in strong support of Royan Harris, the St Thomas man who has accused the police of wrongfully invading his property and destroying his ganja farm in Dumfries in the parish.
The half-acre plantation of ganja, which was raided by the police on February 18, was allegedly being used for sacramental purposes by the church.
Harris, though bald-headed, said that he has the right to grow ganja on behalf of the organisation, based on the amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act in 2015, which allows members of the Rastafarian faith to cultivate marijuana on designated lands.
Despite the claim, the 44-year-old-man was charged by the police with possession of, dealing in, and cultivating marijuana.
He was offered station bail at $200,000, which was revoked when he appeared before the St Thomas Parish Court in Yallahs yesterday. The circumstances surrounding the revocation of his bail were not cleared at press time as journalists were not allowed inside the courtroom. Harris is set to return to court next Thursday.
Three men who identified themselves as priests within the EABIC were present at courthouse where the case involving their colleague was to be mentioned.
Speaking with The Gleaner, Priest Norman Lamont said, “I don’t know why they would do this because we have been exercising the sacramental right since it has been instituted, and it is surprising that at this time there is an attack on our farm.”
Lamont said that the Dumfries plot that was destroyed is one of their locations at which ganja is grown for religious purposes.
“We have a few other farms that we use for sacramental cannabis cultivation. None of our farms have had any problems before, so this is the first time a farm that is directly advised and supervised by the church has been affected.
Nevertheless, I can’t say they (the police) don’t have a reason. I don’t know if there are imposters out there using signs that have caused them to be uncertain, so I don’t know if there are duplicate signs authorised by us, but I am yet to find out why they have destroyed the farm that they were told is under direct permission of the church. When the police went to the farm they were told that it’s under the church’s supervision, but they still took one of the attendants that was there and that’s why we are here,” Lamont said.
The Rastafarian priests were unequivocal in their support for Harris. According to Lamont, “We are standing in solidarity because this is not a fake site. This is one of the recognised sites that was being operated under the knowledge of the church, so we want to make that pronounced and established.
It’s not any kind of fraud farm or imposter. It’s one of the legitimate permitted farms that the church knows about.”