The popularity of cannabis in the USA and globally can be directly traced back to the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica. You can even thank Bob Marley personally for Rastafari and The Cannabis Movement. In the ’60s and ’70s, marijuana’s popularity skyrocketed as young people began to discover the remarkable recreational and medical benefits. However, governments were quick to vilify and illegalize cannabis as it didn’t line their greedy pockets with massive profits.
The Rastafarian movement goes as far back as the 1930s. It started in Africa. But it garnered global attention when it took root in Jamaica. The music of Bob Marley went international. Along with that came the attention to the Rastafarian religion and pot culture associated with it. The truth is marijuana does play a vital role in the lives of most Rastas.
However, classifying it as central to their religion might be a bit of a stretch. In fact, Rastafari is not a religion, per se, it is more of a philosophy or a way of life. Let’s take a look at what it exactly is and was for the Rastafari Movement. And then we will look at how it has affected cannabis in our world.
What is Rastafari, Mon?
First, let’s look at Jamaica because that is where our story ends and that is where the real impact originates. Jamaica, like pretty much the entire western hemisphere was “discovered by white Europeans. These adventurers were brutal, to say the least, in their conquering of new lands. These new resources would make fortunes for their European masters. Countries like England overtook Jamaica, and the rest of the Caribbean enslaved its people and made off with all their natural resources. The truth of our history is truly wicked and written in the blood of the innocent. Don’t think for a minute that Columbus was some sort of Hero. He was a murdering torturing maniac, like the rest.
In the early 1920’s many Black activists in Jamaica, the US and abroad called for freedom. There were numerous movements to go back to Africa and create the independent Black States. Marcus Garvey was one of the most prominent and penned the line, “Look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand.” This caught on like wildfire in Jamaica.
And in 1930 Haile Selassie, a black man would be crowned Emperor of Ethiopia. Then everything changed. It was Leonard Howell who brought this message to Jamaica with the idea of Rastafari and the rest is history. Jamaicans took the message literally and believed Selassie to be the second coming of Christ. He claimed a direct bloodline to Christian the god. Anything was better than the enslavement of their British rulers.
In 1966 Selassie arrived in Kingston. Jamaica would never be the same. Rita Marley saw him. She believed he was Christ and helped convert Bob Marley to Rastafarian. Bob went on to become the most famous musician in the world and icon for the faith. American kids loved the music, the groove, the message of love and especially the weed.
The Rise of Cannabis
Cannabis was very popular among the slave class and workers of the sugar plantations in Jamaica. Selassie did not introduce this aspect to Rastafari, nor did he condemn it. That would have been foolhardy. The fact that it was widely used and not condemned allowed it to be incorporated easily enough into the culture and the movement, and why not? This is significant as Rastafari is all about clean mind and body. They do not smoke, use alcohol or caffeine.
So, the fact that cannabis is so central really is something the rest of the world took notice of. Maybe cannabis was not so bad after all. Hell, maybe it was even good for you. Bob Marley spoke openly about how important and beneficial cannabis was to his people and the nation. And he was right. Cannabis is sacred to the Rastafarians. As it was to the Hindu religion from whence it came.
Rastafari and The Cannabis Movement
As Bob Marley’s music reached the far corners of the world so too did stories of cannabis’ healing power. Kids in North America figured it out quickly. But it was illegal. As a result, the cannabis industry has been underground for decades. Only now have the people finally organized like their Jamaican ancestors before them and made a difference. Cannabis is now legal in all of Canada. And every year more and more States in the US are legalizing. The Rasta dream is alive and well. Bob would be proud. One love!