(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — Rastafarian Ras Iyah V is demanding the return of his almost one pound of marijuana which he claims was wrongfully seized by a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force under the guise of the Dangerous Drugs Act.
Iyah V, whose given name is Verald Vassell, told the Jamaica Observer West earlier this week, that he was driving from Westmoreland to Kingston last Thursday, when upon reaching the community of Paradise, between Ferris and Savanna-la-Mar, he was stopped by a police party.
The rastaman explained that as he reached into the glove compartment for the motor vehicle documents, one of the cops searched the vehicle and came up with his stash of marijuana.
Vassell said he explained to the policeman that as it relates to cannabis, rastafarians have been granted sacrificial rights to use it under the amendment of the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act of 2015. Therefore, he argued, that as a member of the Rastafarian faith, he should not be harassed for being in possession of the weed.
Under the amendment of the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act of 2015, possession of two ounces or less of ganja is no longer an offence for which one can be arrested, charged, and tried in court, and it will not result in a criminal record.
Under the Act, adherents to the Rastafarian faith, are also permitted to smoke ganja for sacramental purposes in locations registered as places of Rastafarian worship.
“The police were in a radio car, three of them stopped me and asked me if I had anything illegal. I told them ‘no’, [they] asked if I had herbs, I told them ‘yes’, and while I was searching for the vehicle documents one of the police, who seemed to be in charge, was already in the vehicle searching up my things. He came out with some herbs, less than a pound of herbs, and I pointed out to him that according to the amendment I have the right to travel with that. He said ‘no’, it is two ounces. I explained to him two ounces only go for the average Jamaican, it does not go for I and I as Rastafari. The question was asked how much I told him there is no limit to the amendment, it is for I and I to use our discretion,” a livid Ras Iyah V explained.
The policeman, Iyah V claimed, gave him two options – either to accompany him to the Savanna-la-Mar Police Station to face charges, or leave the marijuana.
Iyah V said as he was pressed for time for a meeting in Kingston, he opted to leave the weed with the policeman after getting his name and where he is stationed. The cop allegedly gave Iyah V his identity and told him that he was stationed at the Whithorn Police Station in Westmoreland.
“So he told me either come back to him at Sav [Savanna-la-Mar] and get charged or leave the herbs. So the fact that I was going to this meeting with a former public defender and I did not want to be late, I left it and told him I am coming back for it,” Iyah V said.
The prominent rastafarian said two days later, when he went to the police station in Whithorn, he was informed that there is no policeman assigned to that station who goes by the name he was given.
In fact, he was also told that there are no cars assigned to that police station, except a pickup truck.
“My herb was taken away. I was not charged, and only to find out that there is no one by that name at the Whithorn Police Station. I would call him a criminal because he is lying and he is stealing,” a fuming Iyah V expressed.
Commander of the Westmoreland Police Division Superintendent Robert Gordon confirmed that Iyah V reported the incident at the Savanna-la-Mar Police Station, however, he said, there was no police personnel fitting the description he gave, on duty, in that area, that day.
However, the Westmoreland police boss assured that the matter is being investigated.
“We are doing the necessary groundwork to ascertain who would have taken it from him. But, I have not identified who he said did it, based on the description he provided, but we are still looking at it,” Superintendent Gordon said.
Meanwhile, Ras Iyah V, who is a board member of the Cannabis Licensing Authority, explained that amendment of the 2015 Act, doesn’t provide the portion of the weed that Rastafarians are permitted to have in their possession.
He is calling on the Government, especially the national security ministry, to ensure that police are educated on the amendment and the rights of Rastafarians in particular.
“This needs to be straightened out by the Government and the minister of justice needs to make sure that there is dialogue between his ministry and the Rastafarian community, because we cannot continue to take this harassment,” stated Ras Iyah V, the founder of Rastafari RootzFest, Jamaica’s first ganja-exempted event under the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015.
“The Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck needs to make their position known as it relates to Rastafari and ganja, because Rastafarians are still being harassed for small amounts of herbs and their ganja plantations are still [being] raided by police.”