Declaring that he has been a marijuana smoker since age nine, a marijuana farmer admitted many people in the rural communities of Rio Claro and environs depend on marijuana cultivation to support themselves and their families.
He was speaking at the fifth public consultation of the decriminalisation of marijuana at the Hansraj Sumairsingh Multipurpose Complex, Rio Claro on Wednesday.
The father of nine spoke about the tribulations faced by farmers who were often forced to abandon their illegal marijuana fields because of the police.
While some people could “push a trolley” or find some other means of employment, the farmer, a Rastafarian, said, people living in Rio Claro, Cuche and Biche don’t have “a job and depend on growing marijuana to feed their families.”
He said the marijuana has never had any adverse effect on either him or his children.
Earlier, Minister in the Ministry of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds said initially Rio Claro was not one of the consultation venues but included as the area had been historically known for its production and cultivation of marijuana notwithstanding its illegality.
Despite work by the various police commissioners, Weed Eater projects and Ministers of National Security, he noted that there were many large farmers in these communities.
He said they wanted to ensure those farmers were kept in the loop. Based on the feedback so far, he said, it seemed clear that the vast majority of people in the country were pushing for decriminalisation.
However, he said concerns had been raised about how to prevent children from using marijuana, cultivation and the adverse effect on people.
Nigel Maharaj, who suffers from bipolar disorder, claimed marijuana was the only substance keeping him sane.
Maharaj, 50, said for 25 years he would be admitted to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital.
However, in the last five years, he had not been to that institution because he had been using marijuana.
He said: “There was no medication over the period of 25 years that was suitable for me. They tried everything, possible there would always be side effects.”
Maharaj said for the past couple of months he had not used marijuana because he could not afford it.
He said the locally grown marijuana was being destroyed by the police and kush (strong marijuana) was being sold at $50 a joint.
“Since this marijuana decriminalisation consultation has started, marijuana has increased by 100 per cent. I want to know whether marijuana is going to be introduced into the public health care system if it is going to be subsidised for the poor man. How is the man who needs it for medical purposes is going to get it because he cannot afford it,” he added.
Rastafarian Selwyn Dillon, of Iere Village, Princes Town, argued that their constitutional rights were being infringed as Rastafarians were being prohibited from practising their religion which regards marijuana as sacramental.
Dean of the Faculty of Law, UWI St Augustine, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine was fearful that big international and multi-national companies would exploit and dominate the marijuana market in T&T.
She said for almost a century, people had demonised marijuana, but “all of a sudden big business get involved in cannabis and now we are hearing it is the best thing. But, it is also so important that the ordinary man and woman cannot be trusted to either grow it or use it.
Antoine said she did not understand why people like Maharaj could not grow three to five plants as was done in Jamaica and no one has blacklisted that country.
- by Sascha Wilson. Photo by Kristian De Silva.