As Jamaica readies to host the 2023 staging of the CANEX Conference and Wellness Expo this week, event founder Douglas K. Gordon has hailed Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and other Reggae artists as the pioneers who took charge and spread awareness about Jamaican Ganja as natural plant-based medicine.
Gordon recounted in a recent interview with DancehallMag, that even in the face of adversity, Reggae musicians were unafraid to pen and record songs about the health benefits of the herb, which for many decades was vilified and even placed on the world list of dangerous drugs.
For the body of musical work they did in promotion of the herb in a favorable light, he said they must be given their well-deserved accolades.
This conference, he pointed out, will place the spotlight on cannabis and psychedelics this year in the broader discussion of holistic health and wellness. It will also herald an awareness and education campaign on the health and wellness uses of Ganja, in which music will also play an integral part.
“I am very excited about that initiative; it’s a whole campaign that we are going to launch this year at CANEX. We are just polishing up the final pieces on it, but I think this is really what we need to do to get people behind understanding Ganja; understanding why it is important; understanding the words and the sacrifices and the advocacy that people like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and all these folks who went around the world and helped to cement Jamaica’s place in the map, helped to personify what Rastafarian culture, ethos and values meant, and how the plant plays such a significant role in that; how that became so indoctrinated globally and yet we seem to not have embraced it as we should,” Gordon stated.
“And I think it is high time that we recognise that this is a wonderful body of work and a wonderful asset that we should be proud of and we should step into, so Jamaica can truly unlock its value and by extension the wider Caribbean as well. That (awareness campaign) has its foundation in music which you will see when we launch it. But that I think, will go a long way into helping people to open their eyes and broaden their horizons and their receptivity to learning more about the Ganja industry,” he added.
Added Gordon: It’s relying heavily on music, icons and musical culture, because there is so much of what is ingrained in Jamaica’s global power. And it’s also what is ingrained in Reggae music and therefore by extension, Rastafarian culture and therefore by extension Ganja. And it’s time to take those connections and tie them into a strong bow, so people can put them all together.”
CANEX Jamaica, which begins on Friday, October 20, and ends on Sunday, October 22, is aimed at exploring, among other things, what Gordon describes as the many ways in which natural remedies such as cannabis and psychedelics, which have been used for centuries to promote physical and mental wellness, can “contribute to overall well-being”, such as reducing anxiety and depression and alleviating chronic pain.
Jamaican Reggae artists have been unrivaled in their strident championing of Ganja usage over the decades. The late Reggae icon Peter Tosh had been especially imperious in demanding the legalizing the herb in his songs, declaring that it was medicine from Jah for healing of the nation.
Among his most legendary songs was Legalize it from his 1976 debut album of the same name, which was released by Columbia Records and Nah Go a Jail (fi Ganja), and which was described by MSNBC’s Ari Melber in October last year, as “one of the most iconic statements about pot prohibition policies of all time.”
Legalize It, which Peter, wrote as a response to his ongoing victimisation by the Jamaican police, and also as a political statement calling for the legalisation of Ganja, had instantly become a classic Ganja-man’s anthem in what was the herb’s most difficult era.
After revealing that doctors, nurses, judges, lawyers in addition to musicians were users of the herb, the Belmont, Westmoreland native reeled out the health benefits of Ganja and urged the Jamaican government to free up the herb, pointing out that:
“It’s good for the flu
Good for asthma
Good for tuberculosis
Even umara composis”
In Nah Go a Jail, Peter predicted the legalization of Ganja, as well as envisioned the herb receiving the blessing of the police, Government Ministers, Ministers of Religion, and Priests.
As for the word Ganja, Gordon mused further, it is a globally respectable and high-powered term, which Jamaica itself ought to embrace and elevate.
“It is something people should recognise we can and should be proud of. We all embrace cannabis as the new legal road forward, but the truth is, Ganja is a uniquely powerful Jamaican term. And so, it is the same thing as cannabis it just doesn’t have a ‘suit and tie’ on so to speak. And so, why do we need a suit and tie? We don’t. We don’t need to use it in our terminology,” he said.
“I think Ganja is a powerful term. And it’s just time that we just owned it, step up into it and let people understand there is absolutely nothing negative around it once we understand how powerful the plant is and how many people it can help. And how many people can live healthy and more fulsome lives when they learn how to use it responsibly,” he emphasized.