Community service for rasta man held with weed

“Un­til it is ac­cept­able to smoke mar­i­jua­na, it is still un­ac­cept­able and il­le­gal.”

So re­marked Se­nior Mag­is­trate Ali­cia Chankar as Makaan Grant, the Rasta­far­i­an, who was ar­rest­ed at the cannabis ral­ly at Skin­ner Park on Sun­day, ap­peared in the San Fer­nan­do Mag­is­trates’ Court.

The Mara­cas/St Joseph res­i­dent was or­dered to per­formed 80 hours of com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice af­ter he plead­ed guilty to pos­ses­sion of .6 of a gramme of the il­lic­it herb.

Grant’s ar­rest caused a com­mo­tion as some par­tic­i­pants of the ral­ly, host­ed by the All Man­sions of Rasta­fari, had a brief clash with the po­lice as they voiced their dis­ap­proval.

A sin­gle par­ent to two young chil­dren, Grant spent the night in a cell at the po­lice sta­tion. He was charged by Sgt Vin­ton Di­noo.

Ac­cord­ing to the facts led by court pros­e­cu­tor Cley­on Seedan, around 6 pm Grant was ar­rest­ed af­ter the po­lice saw him walk­ing across the field smok­ing a cig­a­rette of an un­usu­al length. “Boss is ah lil smoke,” Grant said as he was ar­rest­ed.

He told the mag­is­trate he was walk­ing to­wards the stage to record the speak­er to send for his brethren. “You bla­tant­ly flout the law,” scold­ed the mag­is­trate.

Re­mind­ing him that mar­i­jua­na is still against the law, she said, “We are hav­ing plen­ty dis­cus­sions at this cur­rent time, the hot top­ic.” The mag­is­trate asked him whether he felt a “bligh” was nec­es­sary be­cause of the cur­rent dis­cus­sions.

Grant said mar­i­jua­na was ac­cept­ed and used in his be­lief. “The cul­ture we come from, we grew up see­ing every­body do­ing it. We ac­cus­tom. We smoke to hum­ble our­selves, to re­lax our mind to cool our self down,” he said.

Grant claimed he saw oth­er peo­ple smok­ing in the ral­ly. The mag­is­trate told him that not be­cause he grew up see­ing some­thing meant that it is “or­dained or con­doned by le­gal per­sons.”

Al­though mar­i­jua­na has been de­crim­i­nalised in oth­er ju­ris­dic­tions, the mag­is­trate stressed that un­til the law states dif­fer­ent­ly in T&T it is still a crime.

Ex­plain­ing that it was not as easy as just mak­ing it law, the mag­is­trate said just like the breathal­yser, the law­mak­ers will have to de­cide what would be an ac­cept­able amount.

In pass­ing sen­tence, Chankar con­sid­ered that the amount was less than a gramme, but al­so that the of­fence took place in an open area and he had two pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions for sim­i­lar of­fences.

Grant was in­struct­ed to re­port to the Pro­ba­tion Of­fice to be as­signed his tasks on or be­fore Feb­ru­ary 4.

The com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice must be com­plet­ed by June 30.

Speak­ing to re­porters af­ter­wards, Grant said this ex­pe­ri­ence will not de­ter him from con­tin­u­ing to ad­vo­cate for the herb to be de­crim­i­nalised.

He said, “I just find we is be hid­ing this mar­i­jua­na thing and they have it down like it is the worst thing and they treat­ing it as a dan­ger­ous drug and a dan­ger­ous plant, but it is a herb at the end of the day. It has many dif­fer­ent mean­ings and use, you could use for it. It have sacra­men­tal rights, med­i­cine rights.”

Grant said the herb could be ben­e­fi­cial to every­body, in­clud­ing sick peo­ple, chil­dren and el­der­ly per­sons.

He said he smokes mar­i­jua­na to cool him­self and “to open my ap­petite, to open my brain cells to en­sure I think­ing the right way.”

He was ac­com­pa­nied by his fa­ther Er­ic Grant and Ronald Sam­my, a mem­ber of All Man­sions of Rasta­fari.

- by Sascha Wilson. Photo by Rishi Ragoonath.