Jamaica Rastafarians confused by Obama

Listen to this article

Kingston, Jamaica: In April 2015, a member of Jamaica’s Rastafarian community, Miguel “Steppa” Williams, asked US President Barack Obama at a town hall meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, whether he would support the legalization of Marijuana. While it had seemed like an awkward question, President Obama appeared to have long anticipated the question, and had probably long choreographed an answer in order to ensure that it does not get his support or outright rejection.

  • Editor’s note: The question comes at the 51-minute mark in the video below.

After all, it was Jamaica, the land of reggae and Rastafarian culture. And his advisers would have told him to expect the question anyhow.

In essence, many in the reggae and Rastafarian Diaspora views Jamaica as one of the world’s modern cradles of marijuana civilization.

And for many people, reggae music goes hand in hand with marijuana, and marijuana goes hand in hand with reggae. As such, a strong or decisive response might had pushed a large religious and cultural community against the President for his views, if they were contentious. On the other hand, supporting marijuana legalization might backfire on the United States’ double-edged sword of international policy regarding the use of controlled substances and narcotic plants.

Thus, if you should review the President’s answer, you will notice that he simply twisted the blame on Congress while hardly making his personal position clear. In the end, an answer was provided, and the question was put to rest.

President Obama at the Kingston, Jamaica townhall meeting at the University of the West Indies. (YouTube)
President Obama at the Kingston, Jamaica townhall meeting at the University of the West Indies.

But after almost two months, many of Jamaica’s Rastafarian communities are still unable to decipher the President’s answer. Of course they were somehow certain that he never said yes to supporting decriminalization of weed, neither did he say no to its use.

“It’s a contentious question to ask the President. No one was really expecting a positive answer,” says Ras Tony of Weedsta, a Colorado-based licensed medical Marijuana Dispensary that also markets marijuana online, but principally to customers in States where its use is authorized.

His sentiments were echoed by other known pot retailers such as Zambeza, Crop King, and Native Roots, who are all based in some US States where marijuana is legally sold.

On the other hand, many in Jamaica could not understand why the President was reluctant to support something that is somehow already being supported at the highest level in the United States. This confused thought has since forced Jamaica’s Rastafarians to ponder on the fact that there are well over a hundred stores like Native Roots and Weedsta, across different State lines where the American public can freely buy marijuana for recreational and medicinal use.

In the end, they are now questioning Obama’s answer to their question, since millions of Americans seems to be enjoying a privilege that he would not support for less than a million Jamaicans.