Marijuana: Loved by Rastas, Sprangas, and Tantie?

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Scene:  A twenty-something-year-old, female professional, Empress, sits in a dark room upstairs a busy business, in the heart of the city.  She is in the company of two middle-aged Rasta men. They pass a spliff amongst them.

Empress:  (takes a deep inhale)… I sorry dread, but I can’t (exhales) believe in Haile Selassie as God. The only man who could rule me is Jesus Christ.  Jesus is my Lord and Saviour. <passes the spliff>

Rasta #1 (smoking):  Yuh know it had a slave ship named Jesus Christ?  Jus’ so yuh        know… <passes the spliff>

Empress:  Fuh real? Way…that’s messed up.

Rasta #2:  (smokes deeply) Fuh real! Das why Empress, yuh cyar lean onto yuh own understanding. Yuh have to question everything, fuh overstanding, scene?  (exhales) Rastafari…

This is the knowledge shared amongst marijuana smokers. These are the conversations that flow, spurts of musings on spirituality and philosophy, kept short and sweet by random, individual zoning –  the same conversations, only continued inwardly.

This is universal common ground, where the academically educated and the street-smart scholar can converse and concur on topics one will never hear in a rumshop.

If the legal drug that is alcohol can make a man forget himself, Mary Jane helps us to remember that we are all the same.

Cannabis sativa also called weed, dagga, sensi, ganja, herb, brainfood, and grass, and known by ‘grades’, compress, skunk, ‘dro, indica, local, and Vincy (a strain from St. Vincent), is as taboo in T&T’s society, as it is used by its populace.


‘Check your mental list of friends; one of them must be a smoker’


Check your mental list of friends; one of them must be a smoker. If not a friend, then an acquaintance, an uncle, a Tantie or nen-nen.  Everyone knows someone who smokes weed. Still, even if Tantie was a smoker, society dictates that ‘everyone else’ who takes ‘a pull’ is a criminal, or worse, a “spranga”.

It is a mentality, which I can attest to, since I used to be one of those discriminating members of our society.

Growing up in T&T’s middle class, expectations were set – passing for a first choice secondary school, tertiary-level education abroad, and a career that will make your parents proud. Hence, ‘drugs’ were far from my mind.  Even rumshops were illicit places – ‘red light’ zones where dirty men drank to belligerence and only ‘bad tings’ limed.

I remember at 23, studying at the University of Tampa in Florida, one of my friends, a student government council member, sorority girl and ‘A’ student, admitted to occasionally smoking pot with her boyfriend.  In my naïve, inexperienced mind, shaded by parental-induced prejudice, I slowly ceased liming with that particular friend after her admission.

Honestly, I looked down at her, and wondered how a ‘pothead’ could have been  as successful as she. I mentally labeled her a degenerate with mental images of her passed out on a couch in a drug-induced state, although her apparent accomplishments were much more solid evidence of who she was as a person.


‘My value system had to be retested through actual experience’


Recalling that page in my past triggers sadness, although there was redemption in the fact that it became the first chink in my once solid belief system. Due to that experience, my value system had to be retested through actual experience, and not just accepted as ‘common knowledge’.

It is not mid-way here that these words should hit you like a billboard promoting weed smoking.

I know through first-hand experience that marijuana use is not for everyone.  Some experience extreme paranoia, bouts of depression, and even blackouts, but then again, I’m sure many of you can attest to these same feelings after one too many tequila shots.

Legal drugs of alcohol and cigarettes are linked to innumerable life-threatening side effects, while the verdict is still out on the long-term effects of habitual marijuana use.  Even respiratory problems due to marijuana stem from the actual burning and inhalation of the smoke, which can be eliminated if one used a vaporizer that will heat the weed to release the TCP, instead of burning it.

While cigarettes must be labeled as a drug that is “harmful to your health”, the Rasta man smoking weed in the privacy of his home can attest that God needed no such warning for this natural creation.

It is now widespread knowledge that doctors have found medicinal purposes for this plant, especially amongst the terminally ill. A natural relaxer and meditative drug, patients experiencing extreme pain are written prescriptions for cannabis in the US.  Marijuana! A herb, which is illegal here in T&T and so stigmatised, yet some US doctors deem it worthy for medicinal use. Why don’t they offer a shot of whisky instead?


‘It is a ‘head’ no alcohol or cigarette has ever rewarded me with


My hope writing this piece is for the reader to have his or her own mental shake-down not just on weed, but also on other societal ‘ills’ he or she has labeled as so up to this point in life.  To state a case that will garner a bligh for those of us who choose to smoke marijuana.  Why do I smoke? Besides the fact that it brings me into communion with like-minded folks, those interested in the quiet sharing of ideas and opinions? You know that Bob Marley song “Natural Mystic”? When he talks about something mystical blowing through the air, a spiritual vibes that inclines God and his works are real, despite being covered by concrete and pitch? On my ‘heights’, I live that song.  It is a ‘head’ no alcohol or cigarette has ever rewarded me with, and it has never punished me mentally or physically for its use.

If those of you reading this still harbour negative thoughts towards this plant and those who use it, I invite you to do some research; after all, it is the questioning of our biases that is the true moral of this piece.

If misgivings still ensue, ask Tantie why she smokes.

Editor’s Note: This article is not meant to promote the smoking of marijuana.

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Quilin Achat

Quilin Achat is an avid lover of reading, so it's no surprise that she runs a small, unconventional bookstore called The Fire is Lit, in San Fernando. Check out the Fire is Lit at

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