Ganja smoker: 'People depend on weed to support families'

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.

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