Roots | Dr K’adamawe K’nIfe

Irie Magazine | April '420' 2016 World Reggae Issue - Roots - Dr K’adamawe K’nIfe

Written By: Tami Coley

Photo Credit: Splash

Dr K’adamawe K’nIfe

Legalize it! ‘Dr K’nIfe’ talks marijuana laws, economic benefits and more

It’s almost exactly a year since the Jamaican government passed the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act on April 15, 2015, a bill that saw the decriminalisation of marijuana in the country. The Act postulated that possession of the plant is no longer an arrestable offence, but a ticketable one, provided the person in question is only carrying 2oz or less. This is not to be considered a 100 per cent ‘free up’, but it is definitely proof that after many years of hard-fought legal battles and numerous reggae hits calling for us to ‘Legalize it’ –Peter Tosh, 1976– things are looking up. There’s still a long way to go yet, but as it stands today, especially in light of allusions to plans and preparations for a regulated marijuana industry here, we are at least a step closer to actualizing it. While some may see the decriminalization bill as a tiny step that was already long overdue, those who understand the associated struggles, stigmas and persecution of Rastas and other marijuana users in previous years know better. This is quite possibly the first real glimmer of hope since the destruction of Leonard P. Howell’s Pinnacle Rastafari village (1954) or the Coral Gardens Bad Friday incident (1963).

Today there are quite a number of advocates in Jamaica championing the cause to ‘legalize it’, but one of the most vocal, visible, qualified and practical of them all is Dr Kadamawe K’nIfe— economist and lecturer in strategic planning, entrepreneurship and sustainable development at the University of the West Indies Mona campus. A long time weed aficionado, Knife is no stranger to marijuana, and proudly told IRIE, ‘I never observe no law ‘bout herb yet’. He even released his For The Love of Kush mixtape in 2014 encouraged by reggae artiste Jah9, is credited for introducing countless people to marijuana and the steaming culture, and is continuously charging the government to legalize the plant and look into creating an industry from it for the nation’s well-needed economic bailout. Suffice it to say there’s no way we could have had an entire 4/20 herb-dedicated issue without seeking the sagely words and strategic counsel of the controversial, incredibly brilliant Dr K’nife. We sat with him for a quick history lesson on steaming culture, marijuana laws and events here on The Rock with some personal tidbits and lots of inspiring economic advice for good measure. Follow through to hear his thoughts on the future of marijuana in Jamaica, plus more…

Dr K’nIfe’s timeline of important ganja-related events in and around Jamaica:

1930s – Championed by the Firestone National Rubber Company in Indianapolis/Liberia, laws were imposed against marijuana use due to the introduction of toxic petroleum-based substances. Marijuana was seen as an industry threat and the first murmurings around its detriment to humans were heard as a result.

1945 – Leonard Howell’s Pinnacle Rastafari village — Jamaica’s first sustainable development business model—was raided by local police. Members of the community were evicted from their homes.

1954 – Leonard Howell’s Pinnacle Rastafari community, complete with marijuana worth millions
of dollars, was destroyed by the police.

1960s – Scientists in Israel after studying Jamaican marijuana strains discovered THC compounds within the plant and concluded that Jamaica has the most potent marijuana strains in
the world.

1970s – Marijuana and coconut plants were destroyed by the Yellowing disease in Jamaica, in an effort to stifle the industries that were coming up, especially in St Thomas and Portland.

1976 – Ivan Van Sertima publishes historical text; They Came Before Columbus’ which gave a superbly detailed documentation of the presence and legacy of Africans in ancient America. Examining navigation and shipbuilding; cultural analogies between Native Americans and Africans; the transportation of plants, animals, and textiles between the continents; and the diaries, journals, and oral accounts of the explorers themselves, Ivan Van Sertima builds a pyramid of evidence to support his claim of an African presence in the New World centuries before Columbus. Sertima’s text shows how hemp was utilised in the shipbuilding industry and explains, among other things, how marijuana came to Jamaican shores and others within the Americas and became associated with unruly behaviour on slave plantations due to being linked to revolts. That same year, reggae great Peter Tosh released his hit tune ‘Legalize It’, endorsing the marijuana herb.

1980s – Local marijuana got competition from the newly introduced, genetically modified Indica strain and high amounts of cocaine were imported. The battle between strains and legal issues for marijuana users continued to persist as a result right up to recent years.

1996/7 – First major encounter with marijuana as a university student and awakening of I & I
as Rastafari.

2015 – Marijuana decriminalised in Jamaica under the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act on
April 15, 2015.

The Marijuana Diary: Dr K’nife’s weed files…

IRIE. What was your first encounter with marijuana?

Dr K’nIfe. I man grow up inna Arnett Gardens next door to a chalice yard where a man name Back Wall Dread live… so I & I always wake up to the sound of steamers bubbling. Try it out one and two time as a youth, but never really know much ‘bout it and that was it. So the exposure was there, but the first real experience was in the 1990s as a university student. When I start trod ‘Fari, and trod ‘Binghi, some elder ones – Bongo Gabbie, him transition now, and Howzer make me learn more ‘bout the herb smoking and steaming. Dem times deh, we sip (consume) herb and live ital (natural).

IRIE. How did you become a marijuana/steamers enthusiast from the re-introduction point?

Dr K’nIfe. Well as I awareness start come forward even more as I trod Rasta, I & I start to get uncomfortable wid the burning of paper thing and start to look an alternative to the ‘spliff’ and rizzla. Move from dry bana leaf to the inside of the royal palm or corn trash to roll up the herb and from there now to steaming where Bongo Gabbie and Howzer show the I – they used to steam with fyah key (fire chalice) that make from a pan and a pipe, but I never love that because it burn the herb directly and and I never too sure where the pan dem come from. I sight that the steaming aromatherapy better than spliff, it more economical and healthier way to sip herbs, so I start try find a way now to prevent the direct lighting of the herbs. A sistren from August Town who transition now who was a potter make the first kutchie wid a gritty inside to separate the herb and give I and I start sip herb that way.

IRIE. What does steaming/marijuana represent for you now?

Dr K’nIfe. I and I don’t deal inna no recreational herb smoking. Ones can’t just come around I to smoke to build a vibes and get high… no. You haffi positive inna yourself. Is a meditation, a healing that allow you to go inna yourself and it brings what is most important to you to the forefront of your mind, so I & I don’t sip herbs and then go do work. I work first and sip herbs after. Steaming fi di I is like yoga, is about the breath and putting I self into different states of consciousness through rhythmic breathing. Herb is a big part of I life… is a serious thing… no fad thing.

IRIE. You speak a lot about legalizing marijuana and ending crackdowns by the police on
ganja farmers/traders, why are you so passionate about this?

Dr K’nIfe. Marijuana is clearly not an ordinary herb and is the single most important plant to I & I as ‘Fari… then the coconut come next. You can get well over 10 by-products from this plant and it has more uses along a value chain than any other plant, and all of them take around the same 3-9 months to grow. We can make money from it along the entire value chain too – from the seeds to the extracts, nutraceuticals, consumables, ethanol, clothing, building materials, medicines and more, plus is a nitrate-fixing plant so it’s feeding the earth rather than taking away from it. Herb is intrinsic to Jamaican culture because what we a call Brand Jamaica is really herb, reggae and Rasta… without them three thing deh we’d be just another island and even though ganja is illegal inna Jamaica, Jamaica is still the only place in the world where you can smoke herb freely in a session right next to a policeman and don’t get lock up – so it’s all about the experience. It’s a big difference you won’t find anywhere else and we have the perfect conditions to grow nuff herb and mek real money from it. Is just the most logical move. When herb is still seen as criminal, the government no get no real revenue from it than what them woulda get if them make the ting legal and collect the revenue through licensing and taxation. All they have to do is position it to the entrepreneurs as an initial investment to help get their business off the ground. Example 10% of licensing and taxes go to the state for administrative support and the other 90% goes to the necessary infrastructural development to get the industry going. Investors would see it as their initial investment rather than just heavy taxation. Who could argue with that?

IRIE. You have a strong belief that the development of a marijuana industry will be the
economic saviour for Jamaica in the coming years. As a sustainable development and entrepreneurship expert, what would you say is the most feasible way to bring this industry to fruition?

Dr K’nIfe. The decriminalization bill opened some good doors but it has to be a social enterprise approach to work. An integrated, macro-level approach with a model that gives the primary control and majority benefits to the people at the root of the organisation, they should have ownership of the industry. Another thing is the attitude towards marijuana has to change because it already affects everything and is an integral part of Jamaican life. You can’t go a dance or any reggae show and don’t see herb, people a eat it, drink it, use it fi all kinda skin things. Jamaican people know say the herb is a good thing. If it was so much of a threat, why we don’t ban marijuana songs from the radio too?

When ganja is illegal it have a ripple effect on everything from family structure go right back to the environment, because a farmer haffi (has to) hide up in the hills and leave him family for months to get the most out of him crop. Him youths (his children) haffi go through the psychological traumas of hearing that them daddy is a criminal. If police burn down a man farm, him lose everything, him family lose, the people inna the neighbour who help him on the farm lose income and it naturally create tensions between youth and police. Man who hide and grow herbs end up fertilising and using pesticide in swamp land and harming endemic species or go up inna the hills and cut down some indigenous flora that we need, just because them hiding.

So I and I believe the way we deal wid this thing must cover all the sectors, we must look at socio-economics and biodiversity and in terms of a market, look to other areas outside of the US. They have been spending money heavily on medical marijuana research since the 1950s, so it very unlikely now that them will open up their market to us. We can focus more on the nutraceutical and food components and look to places like Africa for the market support.

In getting it off the ground, I and I say the thing is to go the Diaspora direct investor route rather than go totally foreign. Since the illegality breeds tension and corruption, so it would make sense to legalize herb right cross the region to reduce the threat of crime and move the industry forward. We have all the expertise already, we have the resources, the close-knit network of experienced farmers, treaters, manicurists, seed specialists; expert research at UWI (University of the West Indies), we have the geographical advantage because of the hard lands and long exposure to sunlight; continuity – ‘nuff families have generations of ganja farmers—and we have the branding ready made. Jamaica is one of the biggest brands in the world and we already have a phenomenally large cultural footprint, so we already know how to differentiate ourself on the market because it is universally understood that as a geographical space, a we have the best herb. If we focus on developing the original Sativa strain in a ital way and market it, a di key dat to the most successful industry.

IRIE. Are you planning to channel all this knowledge and passion you have into a marijuana-related business of your own any time soon?

Dr K’nIfe. I a link up wid some ones already on a mission called Ganjamekyah, which is really a network of marijuana traders and experts. One of I ‘idren (brethren/friend) a deal wid a location-specific distribution app to move that forward, we want to just grow the network and make it easy for people to find the best herb anywhere on the island them reach and more works… as I say, marijuana is the single most important herb inna I life.

IRIE. Give thanks for the wisdom and IRIE time Knife, very insightful reasoning.

Dr K’nIfe. Yes I.. Irie Magazine Logo