In 1975, Peter Tosh defended the use of ganja in the song "Legalize It". The hip hop group Cypress Hill revived the term in the United States in 2004 in a song titled "Ganja Bus", followed by other artists, including rapper Eminem, in the 2009 song "Must Be the Ganja".
Of course, things are not that simple. The population of Jamaica does not consist of Rastafarians alone - they form an estimated 5 percent of the population - and not every Rastafarian smokes ganja. On the other hand, ganja is also widely used by non-Rastafarians.
It is assumed that marijuana came to Jamaica with the Indians. This also explains why in Jamaica a Hindi word is used for marijuana, namely ganja. Through the Indians ganja spread to the lower classes of society; in fact, the black section of the population. Ganja is currently a widely-used substance in the countryside and in the poor districts of the large towns. To Rastafarians, the followers of the religious black consciousness movement Rastafari, the reason for using ganja is more profound. They look upon ganja as a holy plant, which enables them to deepen their faith.
Cannabis lovers in the West with an overly romanticised image of Jamaica and the Rastafarian movement may occasionally get the impression that Rastafarians spend a good part of their day smoking 'peace pipes' filled with ganja. True, Rastafarians usually do smoke regularly and more frequently than non-Rastafarians, yet it is still a matter of moderate and integrated use, like the consumption of ganja in Jamaica in general. In the streets of Jamaica you will seldom come across people heavily intoxicated from smoking ganja. Larger amounts of ganja are only consumed at special occasions like religious ceremonies or during an afternoon or evening in the circle of friends.
In reality there is little reliable information to support these estimates. However, it is certain that Jamaica is one of the countries where the use of cannabis has existed for many generations and occurs very frequently. This was the very reason why a team of American researchers travelled to Jamaica in the 1970s to carry out a prolonged and extensive study on the effects of chronic (long-term) cannabis use. In 1976, the researchers Vera Rubin and Lambros Comitas published the findings of this study entitled: Ganja in Jamaica. A medical anthropological study of chronic marihuana use. This study is still considered one of the classic studies of cannabis use. This particular study was probably also the source of the stories that about.60 to 70 percent of the population use cannabis. Though this study does not provide any precise data to that effect, an estimation was made nevertheless. In the different communities across the Jamaican countryside where the research was carried out, over 50 percent of the men older than 15 years were found to smoke cannabis, and 7 percent were found to have smoked in the past. As women also smoke cannabis, albeit less than men, and drinking ganja tea is common among non-smokers, Rubin & Comitas conclude that about 60 to 70 percent of the lower classes of the rural population use cannabis in one form or another.
The fact that today's ganja is stronger than 20 years ago has probably led to the fact that people smoke fewer joints per day. The daily amount of joints (spliffs) that was consumed by ganja smokers according to Rubin & Comitas, namely seven on average, (low use was defined as less than four joints per day, high use as more than eight), no longer appears to apply to present-day Jamaica. I have personally visited Jamaica several times and for prolonged periods of time and have lived in rural communities as well, and such amounts appear to me as extremely excessive.
I have always compared the use of ganja in Jamaica with the consumption of alcohol in France. Alcohol is consumed frequently, but in a general sense the consumption is moderate and socially integrated. Just as the French can sometimes be seen drinking a glass of wine in the morning and think nothing of it to enjoy a glass of wine at lunch, Jamaicans may smoke a joint in the morning and light up another in their midday break.
But here has to be mentioned that the entire use pattern of ganja in Jamaica differs completely from what we are used to in the West: a Jamaican actually never finishes his joint in one go. A smoker usually takes one or several puffs, lets the joint go out, lights it up again later, and repeats the process. It is not unusual that a joint is lit five or six times and that it takes half an hour or an hour before the whole joint is smoked. This method of use - moderate and not at all aimed at becoming heavily intoxicated - explains why in Jamaica people are seldom seen really stoned on ganja. Should you come across a very intoxicated person in the street, it is much more likely that the intoxication is the result of Jamaican rum.
On a recent trip to Jamaica, I discovered that drinking cannabis is looked upon completely different than smoking it. To my great surprise people of whom I knew that they were strongly opposed to smoking ganja and had never smoked it before, turned out to drink ganja tea (almost) daily. Sure, I knew that ganja tea was often used as medicine, particularly in the countryside, but that drinking ganja occurred to such a large extent was new to me. Many people who I had known for a long time and had always considered non-cannabis users (among them grandpas and grandmas in their 70s) turned out to start off the day with a glass of ganja tea! However, ganja tea is not made from the same, ripened and dried plants that are used for smoking. Ganja tea is drawn from the young, green plant.
Many Jamaicans drink ganja tea - to which they attribute various therapeutic and prophylactic qualities - as medicine. The tea is said to make the body strong and less susceptible to illness. It is also often drunk, if someone suffers from a fever or a cold. Furthermore, ganja is said to be a good remedy for stress.
Ganja became big business in the 70s, as it was exported on a large-scale basis to the US. This led to a higher, more large-scale and export-oriented production in Jamaica. It is a public secret that many upper-class families and other high-ranking persons were involved in this export. The grass was mainly exported in small one-engine planes, and this required capital. Here and there in Jamaica, rests of these former ganja planes can still be seen.
The export of the 70s was mainly aimed at the US. Since Reagan and his successor Bush started the 'War on Drugs' in the 80s, the nature of the production as well as the nature of the export changed. Jamaica's fairly large-scale production of ganja of the 70s (large fields), is no longer evident today. The Jamaican Police and Army, with or without the help of their American colleagues, are searching for plantations with men and with helicopters. The farmers have therefore adjusted their production, and make sure that the ganja is hard to detect from the air by planting it, for example, between high banana- or coconut trees.
Due to the American 'War on Drugs', the export of ganja has become harder and more limited. Nowadays, small planes are seldom used and ganja is instead increasingly often transported by boat or smuggled by passengers on commercial flights. Another (unintended) consequence of the 'War on Drugs' was that some of the former exporters shifted from the export of ganja to the transit trade in cocaine. Cocaine does not smell as strong as ganja and is much more lucrative. This side-effect of the 'War on Drugs' did not only mean that at the beginning of the 80s it was sometimes easier to get crack than marijuana in, for example, New York but it also led to the sudden availability of lots of cocaine (in the form of crack) in Kingston's ghettos.
The Jamaican authorities have a somewhat ambivalent attitude with respect to ganja. Actions are taken against production, trade and use. The army and police are deployed to fight production. In order to fight the trade, the police often sets up road blocks. These roadblocks are set up mainly on the roads coming from the direction of Westmoreland, the south-western province, which is known as the primary production area. However, the question is whether these roadblocks are erected in order to fight ganja, or whether their primary purpose is to cash in on bribes.
In principle ganja users in Jamaica are prosecuted but if consumption is discrete, the police is unlikely to intervene quickly. This however does not apply to Westerners, as the police assumes that the foreign ganja smoker who got caught, would rather part with a few US dollars, than spend some time in a Jamaican prison.
So the Jamaican authorities in principle are fighting ganja but mainly because the big brother in the North, the US, is expressing such great desire. Every decision-maker in Jamaica knows that ganja use is integrated in the country's culture and tradition. These decision-makers also know that ganja is a too important sector of the economy, as to intervene all too hard. Ganja is often called the most important pillar of the Jamaican economy, supposedly bringing in 1 to 1.5 billion US dollars per year, ca. 250 million of which benefit the country as 'white' money. In any case, ganja is by far Jamaica's most important export crop and therefore too important for the national economy. High and low classes of society are involved in this sector, from the poor farmer in the mountains to the big businessman involved in export. 041b061a72