The 13th Annual Stepping High Ganja Festival was certainly an event not to be missed. The Festival is the longest running event of this nature in Jamaica. For the first 11 years of this event due to Marijuana being illegal in Jamaica, it was underground. The link to the website for Stepping High is provided and all the historical information on the event can be found there.
This article is really a reflection of the freedom the legalization of Ganja can and will bring not only to the users of the plant but also for law enforcement.
Before we get into my head as far as Stepping High is concerned a brief overall perspective of the event is needed. “Tent City”, that is the first term that came to mind on arrival. I had arrived early to the event; setting up for many was still underway. Many of the tents were not occupied yet but one could just imagine what later on in the day would hold for attendees. Tents lined two sides of the square shaped venue creating an L in appearance. As businesses got themselves ready to do business, Ganja could be seen throughout the venue. From plants to products to paraphernalia, Ganja ruled the day. An impressive stage headed the square shaped venue of Stepping High where three workshop tents and a bar were set up in an almost central location on the grounds.
Apart from the various activities that took place on the day, what really stood out for me were a couple of things. One of these would be the level of alcohol consumption or rather lack thereof. Although a bar was there I did not observe the same level of bar activity normally found at shows and other festival type based activities. This struck me as fascinating and made me ask myself the question what impact on the alcohol industry would Ganja have should it be released from captivity? Would a free Ganja using society consume less alcohol?
The other thing that really stood out was the freedom the atmosphere of legal Ganja gave the law enforcement agents present. At first I was thinking to myself how this further proved that the law made nothing right or wrong, that the law in itself does not always serve in the best interest of the people. I also wondered how the police present felt to know that not too long ago all the people at this event would be labelled criminals by law and subject to fines and imprisonment. Did these men now feel like hypocrites deep down knowing that they assisted in upkeeping a rule of law that is proving and has proven to be unjust? Not a far cry from those Africans who under the guile of the European caught their brothers and sisters for the slave traders.
As I stood in deep meditative reflection Dr Knife came to me and said, “I want you to look and see how the legalization of Ganja in this space is a freedom for the Police officers present.” I took his advice and under a new meditation I had another look at the event focusing on the Police.
What I saw was amazing. At first is only seemed like the Police were making patrols of the venue, and then I saw it. I was filming a presenter from Oaksterdam University speaking on making Ganja oil and why it was a better form of consuming Cannabis than a lot of the other methods. So focused was I on what the man was presenting I had not noticed three officers standing next to me listening intently to what was being said. Later in the night I would observe an officer around a fire with a Ras reasoning while the Ras got his steam chalice ready. What a sight I thought to myself. What if Police officers based on the Decriminalization of Ganja felt more comfortable in at risk communities. Most communities don’t condone guns and cocaine use and as such Police not having to uphold a law against Ganja would be more welcomed in such communities and in turn would be that much more efficient in doing their jobs. The law against Ganja has not only made criminals of innocent people in the society it has made the people tasked to serve and protect us become the people from whom we need protection. It was the first time that I saw Police in the light as possible victims in the law against Ganja.
What I see is events such as these can be indicators of how the wider society could possibly function in the right conditions. Stepping High created an atmosphere where one could see the vision of a better society set in Ganja freedom. Even though I knew the event was lawful it still felt strange although good to be using my Ganja freely in front of the Police. This was an indicator to me of how much our mental and social stability is affected when subjected to unjust laws and corrupt systems of governance.
While we celebrate small victories in our fight against an unjust Ganja law, the shout that nothing but the total freedom of the herb is acceptable was constantly reiterated by artist performing on stage later that evening. Two ounces, the amount slated to be acceptable for personal use by law here in Jamaica, is deemed unfair as persons are not only looking at medical and recreational use but also the economics that are involved in the very lucrative Ganja industry. At the end of the day we cannot leave out the discussion pertaining to our economics when it relates to Ganja.
Stepping High proving once again that Ganja is the healing of the Nation.