Weed farmers believe Jamaica is a country of real wealth, which could be manifested if those who govern it knew the true value of marijuana.
According to weed farmer, Roy Chambers, although their informal industry is illegal, it brings in big money, and if there could be a way to legalize weed, Jamaica would easily become a leading economy.
18 Karat Reggae visited Westmoreland, a parish for massive weed farming; Roy Chambers explained the rudiments of his job — planting the herb to preparing it for sale or export.
“If I’m planting weed and planting it the right way to get the right quality, professionals can’t make the money I’m making per month in one year. A man can plant a crop of weed and make a million dollars in three months,” Chambers said.
“It’s easy… plus, man nuh really stick out on price for weed — $3,000 per pound and wi alright. So if I can produce 700 pounds of weed; 700 times $3,000 is $.2.1 million. All you do is hire two people to pick it, few people to reap it — which include drying and all. Worse if I had an acre of land, I would be a multimillionaire. Sometime mi wonder how dem seh nuh money nuh deh a Jamaica,” he said.
But, who are the buyers? According Chambers, most buyers in Westmoreland come from Savana-la-mar in the parish. However, Kingstonians and Portlanders are big buyers of the weed also.
“Dem people deh really come in and buy it. Big professionals come in and make demands too, because dem seh dem use it to relax. With all the stress and everything, they need something. Plus, from yuh smoke, yuh buy, so that’s another market,” he stated.
Of note, Roy Chambers further pointed out that the weed is grown in a particular pattern, where a farm is divided into three areas — one for the high grade, one for the middle grade, and one section for the bulky weed.
“So of course, high grade is big money. Middle grade is the one most people smoke, and the bulky, majority of it is for trade. When you hear them say they make a drug bust of compressed weed bound for Haiti, a nuh high grade weed enuh. Dem weed deh a some weed weh full a seed and no Jamaican market want it,” he said.
He explained that there are the male and female weed plants, as well as one they call “muffy”, which is a hybrid of male and female, and ultimately the problematic one.
“Because that plant exists, you have to search the ground and rid it of the muffy and the male plant. Those have seeds. When the male one’s seeds burst, it breeds the female crop. For the muffy, meanwhile it’s breeding itself, it breeds other plants. When your crop is full of seeds it is no good. It only can sell to Haiti market. The only type of weed that goes to Haiti is the seedy ones. Lower grades go to Haiti,” Chambers said.
The biggest problem with his profession, he said, is the reality that not all farmers sell for money. Instead, some sell for guns and contribute to the guns for drugs trade and crime.
“Every community is different. If mi fi call name right now, people weh mi know, I can come up with more than 300 guns. A man just have it, but it’s not even for protection anymore. If a man have a gun him happy fi kill. Police pick up two man, dem nuh plant weed, but dem have gun. So what happen? Dem buy the weed from the farmer, carry it to who have the gun, and exchange it,” he said.
“This business of drugs for gun is a bigger business than you being a journalist and if I was a lawyer. Is a big business, and it all comes down to money. A man lose him life — money. You think a man a shoot a man and is just so? A man a spend big money fi a man head. All about money.”
Chambers, however, made it clear that not all farmers are involved in the dangerous exchange. Instead, some cultivate weed in order to make a better life.
“Some men just want money, cause dem want bike. We can plant a ground and get 80 pounds of weed from it. Eighty pounds times $3,000, which is $240,000 per month, is the amount of money I would make now. Some areas you can plant and take two months to get it. Certain areas in Westmoreland have too much land there to work for people to kill anyone, like down in other western parishes. All Orange Hill, Westmoreland, which is like the capital for weed in Jamaica. If I go there and plant, in the space of three months I’m a millionaire, but some of the guys are buying it for guns. The thing is, if you don’t have a gun and not making a duppy and can’t call yourself a badman, dem seh yuh nuh ready, and it’s those ones who make the weed look a way,” Chambers said.
He said that in order to clamp down on the illegal trade, Jamaica’s territorial waters need to be better patrolled.
“Jamaica Defense Force cannot monitor the entire coastline. Yuh see from dem mek it out of the Jamaican water, dem good. Once dem catch yuh in Haitian or Honduras waters dem good… Is a technique to how it’s done. Say they’re going in with 1,000 pounds, they just calculate it and say 500 a fi dem. If the man dem hold yuh a nuh nothing fi dash 500 gi dem, because dem done put that down as clearance fee,” he alleged.
Additionally, he said, another big part of the trade is meat.
“Dem man deh nuh only want to smoke, dem want something to eat, so dem a move with the meat too. If a man weh trod the waters tell you some things, you probably black out when you hear it,” he said.
Regarding regularization, the young farmer said that the Cannabis Licensing Authority needs to make a few things clearer to them.
“What I don’t understand… first thing they say it’s a different kind of weed they want, they come in with that now. Nuff of the man planting weed, nuff of them no literate. So when they come and talking in big words dem no really understand, so small farmers will say it’s all about the big man, wi nuh have nothing to benefit,” he said.
“They kept a meeting down by Treasure Beach some time ago and plenty of the original weed farmers didn’t go, because they don’t know one critical thing. How is it going to be bought? Will they buy it from us green or dry? None of us know the procedure for buying. That’s the clarity we don’t have,” he said.
Weed farming, he said, will remain his livelihood, but his ultimate wish is to see the informal industry cleaned up.