The Caribbean is known for its sunny beaches,bikinis and special dishes. It is also one of the biggest area of cannabis consumption. Cannabis, or ”Ganja” as it is called by the Hindus of Jamaica has been cultivated in South America for a long time but the Indian workers also brought it to the island in the 20th century. It has become a part of the culture ever since. Even if the trafficking and vigorous consumption of it is forbidden.
Words by Sophie Christophe
Rastafarian people are among the communities who usually prefer natural substances over modern cooking style and goods and whose definition of what is good or not for them is based on cultural and traditional thoughts. Referring to Cannabis the Bob Marley song “Legalize it” may suggest that drugs is part of Rastafarian culture, which is partly true. In fact, the Rastafarians are in duty to preserve their body from damages such as those provoked by alcohol. Cannabis is the only drug they recognize as being part of their religious duties.
The Rastafarians do not traditionally use other recreative drugs, the purpose of their cannabis session not being to escape reality but to have a better understanding of it. They are not the only community using cannabis for this purpose. In some South American shamanistic societies drugs and natural substances have always been a way to reach a certain level of consciousness and it is part of communicating with the unknown. So is the case in some part of India. Indeed Hindus has also brought their contribution into this culture by importing Ganja into Jamaica during the 20th century.
Obviously the use of cannabis does not only have a spiritual purpose for each consumer. It is also a substitute for cigarettes, as cannabis smokers prefer the use of marijuana instead of industrialized and modified products such as cigarettes. Cannabis might even be the healthy smoking alternative. The University of California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research has done a lot of studies concerning the medical efficiency of marijuana. The studies show that cannabis increases the efficiency on the process of healing many diseases. Other laboratories tend to come to the same conclusions worldwide when the governments allow such researches.
Guadeloupe – between France and the Caribbean
Despite the laws against it, the spread of marijuana culture in the Caribbean is a fact. The West Indian islands have a history of slavery and huge immigration wave in common as well as many links with the rest of the world on different levels. Cultural influences have come from all over the world, including music, cooking and cultural movement. Just as easily the culture of marijuana has spread within the Caribbean area. There are exceptions, however. Guadeloupe is a small French island once ruled by the French empire and now completely integrated under French laws and governance. The island is facing some trouble coping with the large drug culture and illegal traffic in the area and the very tight French legislation on drugs. South American dealers try to export drugs into Europe using the huge Caribbean air traffic circuit. Guadeloupe does not have a culture of drugs, the use of it is still quite new and it mostly comes from the neighbors. In Guadeloupe marijuana has always had a bad reputation and in the past drug users were excluded from the society. Now the consumption of cannabis is increasing among the youth who often mix it different substances or other strong drugs, while at the same time drinking alcohol.
Because they have so much contact with other Caribbean communities and the industrialized world, the youths from Guadeloupe tend to think that marijuana should be legalized. The older generation, however, considers cannabis a foreign trend in the same vein as prostitution and guns. The authorities of Guadeloupe are working with the European community to fight back together with the French organization OCRIS (central office for illicit drug repression). In 2010 the customs caught a boat with 1,4 tons of drugs in north Saint Martin, an island very close to Guadeloupe.