Rastafarians march 11 miles for Gov’t to “free up the weed”

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By Devina Samaroo

In a country where being in possession of marijuana is illegal, scores of persons puffed ‘spliffs’ and chanted songs as they marched from Buxton, East Coast Demerara to the Square of the Revolution in Georgetown – a distance of 11 miles – calling on the Government to “free up the weed”.

The large procession was led by the ranks of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and while persons are routinely arrested and charged for possession of even small quantities, no one was reportedly arrested today.

Ras Leon Saul, one of the organisers of the march, told News Room that members of the Rastafarian community are empowered to smoke their sacrament as the “Law of God is greater than the Law of Man.”

A participant smoking the illegal substance during the march. [News Room photo]
“When the Law of Man and the Law of God come into conflict, one has to bow to the Law of God. So in burning our herb, we have scriptural authority…the herb is a God-given plant that is medicinal and it makes you not fear anything. So why should we fear standing up for our rights,” he reasoned.

Ras Saul said he and other leaders are prepared to mobilise the Rastafarian community to abstain from voting for the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition administration if they continue to put this issue on the back-burner.

“The last elections, they claimed that they won by one seat and that came from South Georgetown and Linden. Who lives in South Georgetown and Linden? Rastafaris and a lot of people who burn marijuana. Five thousand votes give you one seat, we have more than 5000 votes in the organisation and if this Government doesn’t talk to us properly, we will talk to the people ourselves,” he explained.

Ras Leon Saul during an interview with the media today. [News Room photo]
Ras Saul added: “we have the swing vote, we have the balance of power and this Government needs to wake up … and stop putting us in jail for a piece of herb.”

Men, women and children participated in the march; some walked, some travelled in motored vehicles and some on donkey-carts, banging drums, waving placards, and smoking weed all the while chanting for marijuana to be legalised or decriminalised.

The Rastafarians explained that they are not asking for much, simply to be allowed to have at least two ounces of marijuana in their possession and five plants in their yards for religious purposes.

Some of the participants during the march. [News Room photo]
They pointed out that this is the direction a lot of Governments across the world are moving and they urged the Guyana Government to follow suit.

Some expressed that planting the cannabis fits in with President David Granger’s “green agenda” while others contended that in light of the closure of the sugar industry, the Government should use the rich soils to grow hemp or marijuana.

Some of the participants during the march. [News Room photo]
The law states that anyone who has in his possession any narcotic could be fined $30,000 and be sentenced for up to five years in prison.

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