For many Rastas, smoking marijuana (known as ganja, herb, collie, or lambs bread) is a spiritual act, often accompanied by Bible study; they consider it a sacrament that cleans the body and mind, exalts the consciousness, facilitates peacefulness, and brings them closer to Jah. The burning of the herb is often said to be essential “for it will sting in the hearts of those that promote and perform evil and wrongs”. Many believe that cannabis originated in Africa, and that it is a part of their African culture that they are reclaiming.
They are not surprised that it is illegal, seeing it as a powerful substance that
opens people’s minds to the truth — something the Babylon system, they reason, clearly does not want. They contrast their herb to liquor, which they feel makes people stupid, and is not a part of African culture. While there is a clear belief in the beneficial qualities of cannabis, it is not compulsory to use it, and there are Rastafarians who do not do so. Dreadlocked mystics, often ascetic, known as the sadhus, have smoked cannabis in India for centuries. The migration of many thousands of Indian Hindus to the Caribbean in the 20th century brought this culture to Jamaica.
They believe that the smoking of cannabis enjoys Biblical sanction and is an aid to meditation and religious observance.
Among Biblical verses Rastas believe justify the use of herb:
- Genesis 1:11 “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.”
- Genesis 3:18 “… thou shalt eat the herb of the field.“
- Proverbs 15:17 “Better is a dinner of herb where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.“
- Psalms 104:14 “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man.“
Also see Spiritual use of cannabis.
Then-Attorney General of the United States Janet Reno, however, ruled that Rastafari do not have the religious right to smoke ganja in violation of drug laws in the United States of America. The position is the same in the United Kingdom, where, in the Court of Appeal case of R. v. Taylor  1 Cr. App. R. 37, it was held that the UK’s prohibition on cannabis use did not contravene the right to freedom of religion conferred under the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
( Click on image to see Bob Marley smoking )
BOB MARLEY THE LEGEND
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