Tempo di lettura: 19 minuti

I was at a conference on drug treatment in Antigua and remember an epidemiologist from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) declaring with some passion that contrary to what many of the overseas participants was assuming, cannabis was not that wide spread in Jamaica.

This happened some ten years ago when I started working in the Caribbean as a drug control officer for the European Commission. I did like the presentation for its passion and as a valiant attempt to deconstruct popular prejudice. Later that year I had the opportunity to travel to Jamaica for several days of meetings and interviews with policy makers and treatment people. We were staying in the Courtleigh, a good hotel on Knutsford Boulevard in the centre of New Kingston. And carrying my suitcase to my room I noticed a couple of men sitting on the beds of one of the larger rooms with clouds of smoke wafting towards my newly arrived nostrils – ganja. Later that day strolling with some trepidation through the neighbourhood I came passed one of the many uniformed men guarding an office building – and from the entrance way in which he was standing I could smell ganja. In the evening my friend and colleague from the University of the West Indies took me on a tour of Kingston by night, including a bar where we had spicy chicken and Red Stripe. There were some noisy youngsters near us smoking – ganja. Since then I have travelled up and down the country. I remember a work gang in Portland parish repairing a road, where several of the women were smoking little spliffs while digging. Or the father of a deported drug courier whom I was interviewing up in Mandeville. The old man was a farmer with wonderful patch of vegetables and fruit trees, and in the midst a stand of ganja.

My own observations have found that contrary to my friend from PAHO cannabis is everywhere in Jamaica. But its ubiquity does not translate into universal approval. There are many who like Ken disapprove deeply of cannabis use.

So what I wanted to stake out here is that cannabis was indeed of great symbolic significance in the Caribbean it is nonetheless a contested symbol.

Cannabis and cultural syncretism in the Caribbean

When I speak of the Caribbean I am mainly speaking about the English speaking Caribbean. We need to remember that English is the third most widely spoken language in the Caribbean islands, after Spanish and French. With regard to cannabis, however, the English speaking Caribbean has played a key role as a transit place, a conduit and a place of incorporation. Cannabis came to the Caribbean from the outside and Caribbean people made it their own. Indeed, even the apostles of cannabis prohibition in Jamaica do not deny its local authenticity.

Perhaps the Caribbean finds it easier to assimilate and acculturate people and products from beyond. After all, its history of cultural contact and colonialism created a brand new term for cultural syncreticism, with the concept of ‘creolization’. The creole, the mixture of European, African and Native American ways in the Caribbean basin during the 16-18 centuries turned this region in the crucible of globalisation. Here people from different cultures came upon one another to fight and to intermarry, and in the process gave rise to one of the most diverse and vibrant communities in the world.

The Trinidadian economist Eric Williams suggested that the plantation complex, with its rigid division of labour and the employment of high end technology in producing molasses from sugar cane, was the forerunner for the industrial revolution that transformed production in the 19th century. Moreover, the surplus value extracted from the involuntary workforce allowed for profits and an accumulation of capital that laid the foundation of the modern system of global capitalism.

If Caribbean people were pioneers in the making of the modern world by forging new ways of working and finance, I suggest that they also played a critical role in fashioning the post modern presence that we live in today. Just as the modern period was concerned with production and labour, so the post modern is preoccupied with consumption and leisure. So we move from the plantation to the plant, from sugar and molasses that fuelled the European proletariat in the ‘dark satanic mills’ of early industrialisation, to the leisure-pleasure complex of our post industrial presence. Today’s generation of office workers relax, recuperate and construe meaning to their lives with help of the ganja that has become one of the Caribbean’s most significant cultural exports.

The point that I am trying to make in this, is that Europe and the Caribbean are closely intertwined, and that we have a shared history of interdependence. European civilization is in large part constituted by the extraction of Caribbean value, as economic historians and politic scholars have long argued. My contention is that the formulation of lifestyles, our ways of being in the world depend on more than material resources, and that Caribbean cultural values as well as its physical produce have been absorbed by the old countries.

What we can learn from this exchange of goods, ideas, symbols and values across the Atlantic ocean is globalisation as a neutral process, beyond the control of states or cartels, with up and downsides for all concerned. Drug control professionals like Hamid Ghodse, the president of the International Narcotic Control Board maintain that globalization is a benign phenomenon and ‘drug abuse’ an unfortunate side effect. An extraordinary proposition against the history of the slave trade driven by labour requirements of the plantation economy. The Caribbean is estimated to have been the destination of almost half of all the estimated 10 million Africans who were taken to the Americas, and some 17% of that number arrived in the English speaking colonies, the largest of which was Jamaica. The product of their labour was sugar, coffee, tobacco, nutmeg, pepper and other spices.  Far from being an anomalous by-product, drugs are in fact one of the engines of globalisation.

But, and this is the second point, the craft of drug production and the art of drug use springs up from below. It is a bottom up process driven by human demand and ingenuity beyond the manipulation of capital and the control of states. When they do react to opportunities and threats, as with the global prohibition on cannabis we find the next dimension of shared Euro-Caribbean reality, as tens of millions of people across the Caribbean, Europe and indeed the world light up their spliffs in defiance of their governments.

To clarify, Europe today imports only a fraction of its cannabis from the Caribbean. But the servic men and immigrants from the West Indies were instrumental to the spread of cannabis in the 1950s, 60, 70s, and the role of reggae artists was critical in creating a cultural space in which cannabis became first possible and desirable, and subsequently normalised. With Bob Marley and Peter Tosh the confluence of Rastafarianism, reggae and ganja gave expression to an alternate cultural possibility of universal appeal.

In this contribution of Caribbean culture in the transition from the modern to the post modern, the cut off point clearly is First of August 1834. This date celebrated throughout the Commonwealth Caribbean commemorates Emancipation day – the end of slavery. This is of course of colossal significance to the people of the Caribbean and as the end of one of the most heinous crimes of modern history, to the people the world over.

It is also of crucial significance to the story of ganja. Plantation owners were bought off with compensatory packages – it is cruel irony indeed that it was the masters not the slaves who were compensated – a 6 year interim period known as the apprenticeship, and the promise that they would be able to continue producing their sugar, by then no longer the crucial commodity it had been in earlier times. The plan was that the former slaves would continue working in the plantations as wage labourers. Many planters even thought this would be advantageous as the cost of housing and feeding the workforce would be rolled onto the workers themselves.

But what happened was quite different – the emancipated slaves left the plantations in droves to become subsistence farmers, fishermen, hunters and migrant workers; in the 1880s for instance, Jamaicans and men from the smaller islands migrated to work on the Panama Canal or the railway in Puerto Limon Costa Rica.  Anything was better than to return to work on the plantations where their ancestors had toiled in blood, sweat and tears for generations.

In Jamaica there were already clusters of villages in the deep forests and the high ground of the Blue Mountains where run-away slaves known in the Caribbean as the Maroons had formed free communities, recognised by treaty as early as 1739. With emancipation the number of free villages proliferated. Within two years the number of black freeholders shot up from 2,014 in 1838 to 7,800 in 1840 to over 50,000 in 1859. They would grow ground provisions – yam, cassava, bread fruit and plantains and cash crops like sugarcane, tobacco, coffee, cocoa, and lime. But the free farmers were adept at integrating new crops as they presented themselves, and a whole new range of crops were on their way over.

The Plantation owners faced with a labour shortfall took advantage of their imperial connections to bring in labourers from elsewhere. The system they used was indentured labour – the migrants promised to work for a pittance for a set number of years in return for a grant of land at the end of their service. In the period of 1838-1917 nearly half a million people came to work in the Caribbean from British India. Some 240,000 in Guyana, 145,000 went to Trinidad and about 25,000 in Jamaica. These Indians migrants brought changed the look, feel and the culture of the Caribbean irreversibly – they introduced rice, many new spices and of course ganja.

Many Jamaicans today, and of course people all over the world believe that cannabis is part of the African tradition. But the ancestors of today’s Jamaica came from the coastal regions of West Africa, particularly from Nigeria and Ghana. There is no tradition of cannabis in those countries. Indeed, the name for cannabis in both Nigeria and in Ghana is Indian hemp. And when the celebrated Nigerian musician Fela Kuti enjoined his audience to enjoy their igbo as cannabis is known in Lagos, he referred them to the great role model of Bob Marley.

Cannabis then was introduced to the Caribbean by immigrants from India in the mid 19th century. But the cross-over from Indian to Black communities happened in Jamaica even though there were far fewer Indians in Jamaica than in Trinidad or Guyana. Possibly that is the reason. Perhaps because Indians were fewer in number, they mixed, mingled and intermarried more in Jamaica than in the other countries. So what happened in Jamaica was that the number of Indian migrants was large enough to support a ganja smoking culture, but small enough for cultural contact and transmission.

Little is known of the dynamics of transmission, but we know that when cannabis came to the attention of the authorities in the early 1920s it has been assimilated. We also know that land owners and employers who dominated the legislative council and who were predominantly whites objected to its use for two reasons. They thought it made the user prone to disobedience and detracted from their work performance.

Let us be clear why ganja was banned in Jamaica in the 1920s. First because Britain, the colonial power, was signing up to the International Opium Convention prohibited opium, cocaine and cannabis, and British laws were introduced in all colonies, subject to ratification by local assemblies. There was no study of local conditions, there was not even an assessment of the wide used made of ganja as a medical herb in all manner of folk remedies which continue to be used to this day. No, ganja was prohibited following an international agreement that was open to abuse by a local elite wishing to exert greater control over employees. It is a remarkable instance of the pernicious character of international policy making.

So by 1925 ganja is widely used in Jamaica – and banned. Similar to today, only that cannabis now is widely used the world over. But in Jamaica there is a clear tradition of a tiny, racially segregated elite using the law as a form of repressive control. The abolition of slavery did nothing to even out social inequality. The land, the offices of state, the means of production were all left in the hands of the whites. Indeed, the most violent uprising, the Morant’s Bay rebellion occurred in 1865 well after emancipation.  What it did, however, was to open the path for gradual social mobility and social differentiation.

It further cemented the position of those black Jamaicans who had purchased their freedom and the mixed race descendants of slave owners who were living as free people in the cities and had carved out a niche for themselves. There were the foundation of an elite who would inherit the state after independence and who constitute the rank and file of Jamaica’s formidable middle class today.

There was also a second factor that is important to consider – gender. Many of the first wave of emancipated slaves were women, often mistresses who had born children to white masters. They became entrenched in the service urban service economy and organised around the church. Today the gender gap has reached critical proportions and is subject to a lively debate in Jamaica as well as in other parts of the region. Girls are continuously outperforming boys in academic achievement, and are displacing them from the job market. I use my own experience as an example; visiting a ministry that was stretching over three floors of the office block I saw only two men. One was in uniform guarding the door, and the other in suit occupying the highest office of permanent secretary. In between every desk was manned by a woman.

There is a real and serious crises of masculinity, which has its causal roots in the experience of slavery, and consequences in the persistent marginalisation of Jamaican men. It is also manifest in the extreme individualism and absence of social organisation and even team work. The devastating legacy of slavery has been the destruction of all institutions, of a common culture of all that binds people into a community. All this had to be recreated from the late 19th century onwards and remains a work in process. But I belief that ganja has played a key role in this.

The use of ganja has provided Jamaicans with a source of pleasure and of insight – or as the Rastas say, for meditation – that is all of their own. It provides the mainstay for the informal economy, and it is a regular way of creating community in shared consumption – or to paraphrase the anthropologist Mary Douglas, in ‘constructive smoking.’

Ganja and the construction of community

Most crucially, however, has been the adoption of ganja by Jamaica’s most original contribution to spirituality – Rastafarianism.

The Rastafarian movement evolved in the early 20th century together with spiritual movements like revivalism and political movements, most prominently the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) led by Marcus Garvey. The unifying theme to all these was race, a rejection of white hegemony and imperialism, and the assertion of equality – it looked towards Africa as a spiritual homeland and ended up by declaring the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie as a divinity. Early on it also embraced ganja.

The fusion of ganja and Rastafarianism does require some explanation. All religions devise mechanisms to achieve altered states of consciousness, to create a state of sacredness distinct from the profane. Ganja provided a way for achieving that altered state and create a sense of the sacred. We can speculate that several ceremonial elements were incorporated in the transmission from East Indian migrants, as ganja smoking and eating is part of Hindu festivals and highly ritualised. Many of these were replicated in the herb yards that originated in the 1940s and became part of Rastafarian ceremonies – including (i) the passing of the Kutchie or cup from the left to right (ii) gracing the cup before taking one’s draw and (iii) emptying the cup when all the herb was burnt, not before [compare the how priest finishes wine at mass]

So ganja was already endowed with a spiritual heritage before it was adopted by the Rastafarians – but what made it so attractive and distinct from alternative drugs equally available like rum, was its non-white provenance. Unlike so many other facts of Jamaican life, ganja had come without any effort or deliberate contribution by the white man.

Indeed, the white man’s response was to declare it a ‘drug’ and to ban it. There was a political subtext to this, as Rastafarians were vehemently anti colonial, the authorities cold use ganja possession as a pretext for harassing the community. The Rasta leader Robert Hinds instructed his followers to refrain from ganja when they came to his yard so as to avoid police trouble. In the 1940s and 50s ganja became associated with unrest, political resistance but also with property crime and public nuisance. In the early 60s the insurrection led by Claudius Henry, a Rastafarian with alleged links to Cuba, in which several British troops were killed was associated with ganja.

The concerns over the connection between ganja and crime were fanned by the churches – which saw Rastafarianism as a competitor – and accepted by a section of the black Jamaican elite. When Jamaica gained independence in 1962, therefore, little effort was made by the new government to change the status of ganja. Things only began to change in the 1970s, as it became clear that draconian laws had failed to stem the rise in the use of ganja. Moreover, at international level Rastafarianism was gaining credibility, while reggae became the cultural ambassador for the country, and leading reggae artists openly celebrated ganja – like Bob Marley’s album “Burning.”

The high point in the opening of political space for bringing about a paradigm shift was reached in the mid 70s with the monumental study by Vera Rubin and Lambros Comitas, which catalogued patterns of ganja use across Jamaican society. The study, of an unprecedented breadth and depth, took issue with some of the main criticisms brought against cannabis with regard to addiction, the impact on mental health, and critically for Jamaica the ‘amotiviational syndrome.’ It also made a link between socio – economic status and use. Up until then, ganja was used predominantly by rural farmers and the urban poor. But during the 70s it was increasingly used by the elite as well, and became increasingly a national symbol.

So we find the mid to late 70s as the high point in the rehabilitation of ganja. Large sections of the community remain wary, but use and cultivation are spreading inexorably. While the debate over he value and benefit or dangers of ganja is becoming better informed, three international developments are impacting on the politics of ganja in Jamaica

1.    The Reagan – Bush era 1981 – 1993 and the second war on drugs; within the US the liberal approach to cannabis, possession and use of which had been depenalized in some 20 states, was reversed.
2.    The rise of the cocaine cartels in Latin America; Colombian organised crime groups, run by people like Pablo Escobar and Carlos Lehder establish bases in the Caribbean, introducing crack cocaine and a new culture of violence
3.    Ganja and Rastafarianism become regional movements; new centres of consumption and production spring up across the region

The study by Comitas and Rubin was part of a whole stream of research in the 1960s and 70s that opened new avenues in the understanding of drug use. It was the time of Howard Becker, Norman Zinberg and Philip Agar. There were studies in the medical benefits of natural psychoactives which laid the foundation of the medical marijuana movement. But with the resurgence of the New Right this all came to an end, as research shifted focus on problems, on addiction and on explaining the dangers of drugs.

There were serious consequences for international partners who were seen as being countries in which drugs were either produced or though which it was transited. Jamaica in the 1970s was a major producer of cannabis, much of it for export to the US.

US pressure
US government response was swift; Jamaica was pressured to cooperate on law enforcement with the US and in 1974 the first US-Jamaican eradication exercise. Over the years, however, the US developed a system of economic sanction to push small countries into following its line on drugs, which can have devastating consequences – in the mid 80s US customs began fining shipping agents when marijuana was found on vessel, as a result many shipping lines pulled out of Jamaica. In 1989 the national Airline Air Jamaica was fined US$ 37 for illegal drugs found on its planes.

The State Department also began to certify countries which were drug produces or transit countries – and those that did not cooperate with the US or adhered to the UN drug control treaties were to be penalised, by losing their trading privileges, they would have US development cooperation cut off, and lose access to funding from the IMF and World Bank; all these combine into devastating blows for developing countries.

The cocaine story
It is important to recall that the rationale for these measures that were adopted in the 1980s was not strictly marijuana, but another drug – cocaine, and especially crack cocaine. In the 1980s this was running out of South America via Mexico or through the Caribbean. There were different routes, along the Central American littoral, across the island chain of the Antilles and via Jamaica, a staging post where boats could drop off, and planes refuel. The South American crime cartels made deals with Jamaican groups to provide landing strips, fuel, and when there was space on bard, the Jamaicans would fill it with marijuana.

In the next instance, the Jamaican crime groups would send their own planes to Colombia. From being transitters, they became organisers of the trade. Moreover, the Jamaicans could distribute drugs in the key markets both the US and the UK because of the diaspora, with large communities in New York, Chicago and London. They had family ties, good cover and a ready number of recruits in these metropolitan markets.

How could the Jamaican crime groups become so powerful? Remember that at independence in 1962 Jamaica inherited a British style parliamentary system based on first past the post electoral system with two dominant parties – the Jamaican Labour Party and the People’s National Party. Competition was fierce, and candidates were both supported by gangs of party activists who would capture different constituencies in Kingston and secure these by making sure that voters would vote for their candidate. In Jamaica this has become known as ‘garrison politics’. In turn these groups of supporters would be rewarded with government contracts for construction, maintenance and other public works. But in the 1970s and 80s the Jamaican economy dived into recession, experiencing a painful period of Structural Adjustment. Lacking the funds for patronage, the government and political establishment lost control over the activists. These now had to find other means of deriving an income at the very point when the cocaine trade picked up. Jamaican crime therefore evolved from a core of party thugs working under the protection of elected politicians. The money they made soon began to exceed that of the government, and they could now import the weaponry to challenge the security forces. At the same time cocaine and crack appeared on the streets of Jamaica as well as across the other Caribbean islands.

To many people in the Caribbean this is a bitter tale exemplifying the injustice of Babylon. I have heard in more than one island that following large cannabis eradication exercises leading to a temporary shortage of cannabis – but at the same time crack was available everywhere. The idea being that there is a conspiracy to destroy the natural herb cannabis and get people addicted to the drug of cocaine.

In the tourist spots around Montego Bay, Negril and foreign tourists started to ask for crack and it could be swiftly supplied. I have interviewed a number of young hustlers and beach boys who started using with their tourist girlfriends and then developed problematic habits. Across the islands the drug crack is considered a white drug, introduced by white people and used by them. In the US of course, as well as in the UK, crack still has the image of a black drug. It illustrates how stigmatised behaviour is readily attributed to outsiders.

In the Caribbean Rastafarian and many other people say that ganja is not a drug but a herb, but that crack is man-made therefore a drug. But among policy makers, and particularly in the international community that is so influential in the Caribbean this distinction is not clear. The international conventions class opiates, cocaine and ganja as ‘drugs of abuse’ which are all prohibited for non medical use. What are the consequences of this?

As drug control has been championed by the US, the intensification of the war on drugs under Reagan and Bush sr. resulted in the drug traffickers becoming more organised and more violent. When they started to run drugs through the Caribbean, with mini and micro states controlling only very small security forces regional politicians were alarmed.  Michael Manley warned in 1989 that criminal cartels could dominate the political economy. And so, the regional organisation of the Caribbean – CARICOM – Caribbean community and Market – approached its partners in the US and Europe for assistance. With funds from Europe and the US, Caribbean countries began to build up their security systems during the 1990s and early 2000s. There was investment in the hardware, new guns, boats and planes; training for police, coast guards, customs and security. Joint manoeuvres and regional exercises were held. Caribbean countries signed extradition treaties so their citizens could be tried in the US, and allowed US naval vessels access to their territorial waters. The EU also paid for drug treatment and prevention campaigns. But most importantly, all over the Caribbean the laws against drug offences were beefed up, with large increases in the number of people arrested and going to prison for drug crimes.

But as we found out when we looked at the statistics, the majority of people caught up in the criminal justice system were not big traffickers. The prisons were filling up with drug users and small peddlers – and the main drug was ganja. Overall prison populations remain small in Caribbean countries, a few hundred per island. But per capita incarceration rates are among the highest in the world, far out of proportion for the overall population. And in small island going to prison leaves an indelible stigma from which offenders cannot escape. Far from eliminating crime the punitive approach was accelerating the cycle of crime and alienating large sections of the population. Even people who were opposed to drug use were vehement that nobody should go to gaol for smoking ganja. Moreover, in Jamaica so many people were smoking ganja and openly that being arrested was both random and draconian, and too often punishment was due to personal issues between the offender and the police. Add to this the corruption that entered the system, with large scale cocaine traffickers making their get away after being bailed while poor men went to prison for smoking a spliff.

The Ganja Commission

In the 2000s responses shifted again starting with Jamaica’s Ganja Commission. Commissioned by Prime Minister Patterson this commission of eminent citizens chaired by the anthropologist Barry Chevannes, conducted a detailed study of public opinion, scientific evidence, and social attitudes to ganja in Jamaica and upon submitting its findings in August 2001 made a series of suggestions to the government. The centre piece was to suggest the decriminalization of personal use of ganja, as the continuing criminalisation was unenforceable. The policy document is available on the web and remains one of the most well balanced and thought out documents on the topic. But it remains there, on the web and on the shelf, with no government intent or purpose to move towards implementation. Why?

The answer is simple – on the very evening that the Ganja Commission announced its findings the US ambassador Michael Koplovsky said that the US opposed the decriminalisation of marijuana and warned the country to adhere by the international agreements that it had signed. So ganja never was decriminalized, growing and smoking remains illegal even though it has become a widespread cultural practice.

Spreading across the Caribbean
Not only in Jamaica – we noted that ganja was introduced by Indian migrants in the 19th century, but in the 1970s ganja was spreading across the Caribbean from Jamaica. Even highly conservative countries like Barbados and Grenada were finding that some young people turned towards Rastafarianism and many more enjoyed smoking the herb.

A new centre of gravity emerged in St. Vincent, which has become the largest producer supplying much of the Eastern Caribbean. Unlike neighbouring islands like St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Barbados, there is no large tourist sector. The mainstay of the economy is agriculture, and the main crop was bananas. But when the EU abolished preferential tariffs for Caribbean bananas in 2003 many farmers switched from bananas to cannabis. Today, there are hundreds of cannabis farmers on the slope of Mount Soufriere. The government with the support of regional forces and of course the US, conducts regular eradication exercises named appropriately ‘Weedeater’.
These are hugely popular among all involved, as the troops get to fly their helicopters over the jungle and coastline, they get to play with a lot of hardware without any risk. The farmers never fight back, they simply replant.

These exercises in many ways symbolise how pointless and destructive cannabis prohibition has become. They cost enormous amounts of money to stage; within days the farmers are back, but often the net result is to push them further into the rainforest, chopping down trees and endangering the watershed. The last weedeater exercise was scheduled by the Vincennian government to happen after the marijuana was harvested so as not to ruin the ganja farmers. Because if they go bankrupt they will of course turn to much more dangerous crimes.

Future directions
So the problem of cannabis prohibition is now  affecting the entire English speaking Caribbean. During one drug control assessment the minister for internal affairs of Guyana once asked, “when are you [Europeans] going to legalise this herb. We live in the rainforest, how can we possibly stop it from being cultivated?”

The Caribbean countries, not even regional champions like Jamaica, do not have the power or international clout to challenge the UN conventions and force a reconsideration of the status of cannabis. For the moment they have been running other measures, with the support of international partners like the UK, EC, and Canada. One of the most successful ones has been the diversion from custodial punishments. In Jamaica and now the Eastern Caribbean petty drug offenders perform community service instead of prison time.

But ganja use is becoming more and more entrenched, and as long as it remains illegal, however established the problems continue.
–    they split society between users and non users and the continuing marginalisation of users
–    cannabis has got mental health implications – resources are inadequate for dealing with these, and the issue is so fraught that it is difficult to get clear messages across
–    ongoing criminalisation of those caught distributing and selling
–    the alienation of users and farmers from the state

More insidious still is the fact that cannabis prohibition provides a smokescreen for a number of far more serious political problems. the main one is the extraordinary hypocrisy by which the US government has blamed Jamaica for allowing the shipment of drugs into the US, while at the same time the US is the largest exporters of weaponry to Jamaica. Not a single US citizen has died of Jamaican ganja – but hundreds of Jamaicans are killed by guns made in the USA every year.

Many of Jamaica’s problems are home-grown – the world beating homicide rate, the unhealthy relationship between crime and politics, corruption and social inequality.

But external partners are contributing to these problems by imposing a legal straight jacket that has criminalised a cultural practice.

I have argued earlier that the Caribbean has been a fountain form which many of the impulses for European modernity have sprung. These were not the choice or the conscious will of Caribbean peoples, most of whom were in various states of colonial subjugation. In the 20th century political independence was achieved. The project for the 21st century is self determination in all aspects of social and cultural life. To launch this project solidarity from the Old World will once again serve all out interests, and the regulation of cannabis is best approached as a joint Caribbean and European project.