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Marijuana in the Caribbean: between life-style, beliefs and global trade

Shirlei ZEN

01 / 2009

Lucy comes from Saint Lucia, one of the little known islands of the Caribbean. There she works her land and, together with her husband, she struggles to raise a large family of eight children and to send them all to school. Apart from her family and land duties, Lucy also is part of AICA, a Rastafarian organization, which fights for their rights to grow what is sacred for them: cannabis.

Lucy, why are you here?

Mister Mafeci, who works with marijuana diversification projects, needed a woman from the Caribbean, and he checked with me to see if it would be a good idea for me to come. It’s just a shame my husband and my son are not here. I am here to see if I can find some funding for our organization, AICA, so we can raise awareness about the problem of marijuana and fight for its decriminalization.

What is your role at AICA?

I am helping to develop the marijuana program of AICA, and spread the program within society.

Do you grow marijuana?

Yes I do. But I don’t sell it, it is just for my family’s consumption.

What does marijuana mean for you?

Everything has a spirit and that tree has a very special one, because it really does come, as much as the Devil wants to fight it, it really has its power, it opens your mind, it relaxes your mind. It’s all depends how you go about it.

What is is like to grow marijuana in Saint Lucia?

Having marijuana in Saint Lucia is nobody’s business. It is illegal. If they find it, they destroy it, or they use it and you’ve got to pay a fine.

Have they ever caught you?

No, where I used to live before, I used to grow my herbs in between my tomatoes, because you need to plant your herbs to make tea or to smoke, because you sometimes can’t even buy it. And the herbs become a kind of currency because someone comes and gets your tomatoes and leaves you some herbs, and then afterwards you sell it to someone else, and so on.

So it is quite criminalized?

Yes it is, but there are a lot of people who smoke marijuana. But the problem is that now, there is a lot more violence involved. Because nowadays there are a lot of people that don’t have jobs, and if they don’t go to school, it becomes a problem, because many times they end up doing wrong things.

You said there is a lot more violence now, is it at all connected with the production of marijuana?

That is a matter of desire, of not understanding life enough. Maybe the way that they try to do things is not the way that it is supposed to be done. The police, before, used to fight us a lot in Saint Lucia, now they can’t really say who is really a Rasta: just because they’ve got dreads and do bad things, they were considered Rasta. They can’t go around judging people like this. A lot of people who don’t even have dreads also do a lot of wrong things. People on the street can’t buy drugs, it is only those who have the money who can to buy it.

The problem is that although in Saint Lucia we don’t produce huge amounts, we are in the center of the international traffic of marijuana. A lot of the marijuana that goes to the world passes by our island, which represents a problem for us, who produce marijuana for auto-consumption and a little bit more. So the police always have an eye on us. Once for instance, they caught my husband who was carrying very good marijuana, produced in Saint Lucia. The police accused him of having brought it from Saint Vincent, which is where all the marijuana comes from. I think they couldn’t believe that we, in Saint Lucia, could produce such a good quality weed (laugh). We in Saint Lucia do produce weed, but it’s nobody’s business: it is hard to know who produces weed, who sells weed, who smokes weed, now not only Rastas sell weed, not only Rastas smoke weed…

But considering the size of Saint Lucia, it would be easy to find the plantation if the police really wanted.

Oh yeah, but it is very hilly and there are snakes, so we have a lot of weed planted in the snakes’ area. But now, the police knows where there is weed. They go there by helicopter. When they get it, sometimes they burn it, sometimes they sell it themselves, all of this happens. When a producer gets busted, after few months, people start producing again.

What are the other drugs consumed in Saint Lucia that you had mentioned before?

Maybe cocaine, it’s a big market business. People on the street would only have the money to buy very small quantities. But they are the ones that get abused, and because they need to survive, they react. It is time that the police and the community come together in dialogue. There must be a feeling of doing things together for the nation. People need housing; kids need to be sent to school. There is the need to create more avenues, it’s a lot of social work, but that’s the way that you get people to behave themselves. We have to be each other’s keeper, by doing the right thing for each other, so that the world will be okay. We don’t have to fight for what is ours. Love and only love can save, and nothing else.

Would you like marijuana to be legalised?

It has its good and bad aspects. It would still sell, just like food. Everybody would be looking for the best deal. I don’t see much of a bad side to it, but people would want to take advantage of the use of it. But I guess the same can happen now anyway.

When did your kids start smoking?

When they left school. I didn’t even know it. I didn’t give it to them at home, because if you do so, you have to support the child’s habits, and its a problem if you don’t have a plantation. Even if you have a plantation, you shouldn’t give it to them, because they should learn how to have control over themselves. I don’t mind if they smoke now, as long as they make sure they go to school. That is the key thing.

How would you like to see you community in the future?

I’d like to see all the kids in my community at school. We don’t have a library and we don’t have strong people to fight for one; I’d like to have a library. The governments of the world should really think of marijuana and think of the indigenous people, the people that have their own country. The whole world should come together and understand that there is one world, one God, one aim and one destiny.

Palabras claves

cannabis, tráfico de droga, droga, consumo de droga, agricultura ilícita

, Caribe


Foro Mundial de Productores de Cultivos Declarados Ilícitos


Interview realized during the Ist Global Forum of Producers of Crops declared to be Illegal, 29-31 January, 2009, Barcelona.



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