“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.