Decriminalisation and legalisation are far different

first_imgDear Editor,While for decades Indo-Guyanese have controlled the monopoly of marijuana cultivation and by extension the distribution network, for some strange reason, at least 85 per cent of persons convicted for possession of small amounts are Afro-Guyanese! However, from a cultural perspective, Hinduism stands out as the oldest religion for “ganga” use, dating back to over 1000 years. “Whereby the holy-men, sporting locks, dressed in saffron robes after lengthy chanting and prayers, light up their chillum to smoke marijuana. Then, after undressing, they plunge into the calm and serene waters of the Ganges River, India’s most sacred, to commence the Annual Pilgrimage”. Surprisingly, I can’t recall ever listening, reading or viewing, in both the electronic and print media “a local Hindu Pandit espousing this fundamental attribute”. Nevertheless, the advent of “Rastafarianism” locally popularised the use of marijuana, both for smoking, tea and occasionally chewing. Prior to this, a few elder “black folks” were consuming ganga. This was told to me by the late “Mother Sills”, a Hadfield Street, Lodge resident at the time, over 30 years ago. At the time, she was in her 70s, occasionally smoking her “spliff” that was wrapped in the softest and thinnest layer of corn skin. As an advocate for marijuana use, “Mother Sills” was always against the use of cocaine, which she described as “white people drugs, an ungodly product of the Devil”. In one of her frequent discussions, she intoned: “As a small girl, me mother use to send me cross the race course, to pick ganga in the Botanic Gardens, to make tea”.Also, in the 80s, Rastafarians of yore, at Nyanbingi gatherings, would circulate ganga in a calabash for smoking amidst chanting and biblical quotations: “The clouds shall be for a covering, and the flame for a light”! A wide array of fruits and ital were also served. Interestingly, Editor, can it be ascertained from a historical perspective, who was responsible for marijuana cultivation locally?Was it the Indigenous people, colonisers, slaves or the indentured immigrants? Was the by-product of rope produced locally? What year was use for local consumption banned/prohibited; who (m) was responsible? Can folklorist and Stabroek News’ weekly columnist – AA Fenty – comment publicly on the song of yesteryear “Ganga Manie”? Since the mention of: “gimme wan shilling” would have been pre-independence. Nevertheless, Guyana within the English-speaking Caricom Region possesses the most “outdated draconian law” within sentencing for a mere ganga seed! – introduced by the late former President, Desmond Hoyte, almost 30 years ago. Surely, it’s “something black, I’ll never understand” 30 years later. That the law was never amended in 23 years of the PPP/C rule remains a non- issue at this juncture. In the words of Dr David Hinds, “what was wrong under PPP/C can’t be right under the coalition Government”. Erstwhile the comments of two coalition PNC Ministers are most disturbing: “The law is the law”, “Maybe a referendum should be called” – the Ministers of the Presidency and Legal Affairs respectively. What are they promoting: black oppression, suppression, or a combination of both?That under the late LFS Burnham the law in relation to sentencing wasn’t that harsh; community service in most instances was the order of the day. Cocaine use was more associated with the hippie/metallist culture, and drug addicts/junkies were virtual unknowns. Meanwhile, a comment from the late former President, Dr CB Jagan at a plenary session of Caricom Heads: “Today, it’s bananas; tomorrow, it can be bauxite, rice, rum or sugar. But the “outlawed ganga” that our region has can transform our economies, due to the demand in Europe and North America, for medicinal purpose.”Additionally, former Empowerment Ministerial Advisor, MP Odinga Lumumba in a sitting of the National Assembly, a few years ago, lamented: “A large number of our young people are being jailed for ganga, what are we doing about it?” Of course, the lone Opposition, the PNCR remained “mummified”! The late Dr Jagan’s comment was in relation to: “The unfair trade policies that denied primarily OECS countries favourable prices for bananas, which were subsequently imported from Central America, under the USA controlled Chiquita brand”. Fast forward to this current era, towards several states within America passing legislation on marijuana and the financial benefits being derived by way of taxation. Of course, we are still a “s***hole” country.Finally, to the “prophets of doom and gloom”, I say don’t misrepresent the facts. “Decriminalisation and legalisation” are, by far, significantly different. Most notably, Rooplall Dudhnath, your claims have already been debunked by a medical practitioner, in the print media by way of letter. Further, I do hope the views expressed by Dudhnath aren’t reflective of the Bahai community at large, of which he’s a member. Interestingly, Dudhnath should focus his attention on the “core values of spirituality”, in relation to “the Gay Parade converging on the streets of Georgetown, on June 3, 2018, which is “ungodly”, rather than denouncing upon “God’s creation”, a simple plant! Strangely enough, “joker smokers” with impunity aren’t being harassed by Police ranks for smoking a “spliff” in the public, by minibus parks. So, why invade the privacy of an individual’s home? Why are “astronomical fines” being imposed for small amounts of marijuana, which aren’t comparable to the actual cost? Isn’t this a “travesty” of justice? Whereas, ie, 8 grams = $8000 fine; 28 grams = 1 ounce; an ounce of good local marijuana costs $7500. $7500/28 = $267.8571×8= $2142. Facts and figures don’t lie! So, what mechanism is in place to ascertain the quality of the marijuana, whether local or foreign, and the price structure? Should this “discriminatory, immoral and unconstitutional act continue unabated? Needless to say in three short years of PNC rule, as a principal player in the coalition, Afro-Guyanese are being stripped “stark naked” and catapulting towards the “lowest scale of the socio-economic ladder” once again. “Mo fyah, slow fyah, pun de duppy PNC”!Yours truly,Samora N’KomoNon-smoker, empathiserlast_img read more

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