Vicki Hanson

Jamaican Ganja Growers and Producers Association

I work with growers in Jamaica to push for changes to the law and to help traditional growing communities to take advantage of the medicinal ganja industry. This is not just an academic issue, it’s also personal for me: I have had family members incarcerated and stigmatised, including Rastafarians using Ganja for religious reasons.

I met TNI staff a few years ago at an informal dialogue in Jamaica, and then got to know them better after becoming an Open Society Fellow and spending a few weeks in the Netherlands. I saw the fellowship as an opportunity to learn how to make change in Jamaica and in our region,  as well as to understand the international conventions and overarching rules that prevent us moving to a fully regulated industry. Through TNI, I was able to learn about the international laws, different models of regulations in Europe as well as meet growers from Bolivia, Guatemala and other countries facing similar situations.

I know it won’t be possible to change policies overnight but working internationally with groups like TNI helps us advocate a more human-rights and people-centred approach. We have made some advances in Jamaica, and now others from the Caribbean are coming here to learn from us.

The drugs war has criminalised many of our citizens, encouraged violence and crime, and disrespected the rights of Rastafarians who treat ganja as a sacrament. In the end this struggle is not about sales and commerce and much more about the rights to life and development. That is what we are fighting for.