Original Ska Dance – Did you know?

Did you know the Ska dance as it has come to be known was manufactured?

Watch this video to see the result of watering down the fancy complicated footwork of the legsmen. It was Ronnie Nasralla who re-engineered ska’s improvisational brilliance into an easily accessible move back in the day when there was an attempt to market the music and moves on the pop / rock / rock ‘n’ roll scene in the United States of the America.

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Ten Reasons We’re All Rooting For Tessanne Chin

Tessanne Does Tessanne Better Every Time…

As a Jamaican who is researching music and completely immersed in the investigation of ways in which Jamaican culture is consumed and reproduced, I couldn’t overlook one of the highlights of this year in terms of this consumption. Tessanne Chin has rocked The Voice over and over and over again and Jamaicans at home and abroad ‘glad bag buss just like Olympics time.’ With tears and talk, laughter and leaps of faith, bruk pocket and bootleg call attempts, we are showing our support in spite of, no matter what, by any means necessary.

Of course, I wholeheartedly agree with Dionne Jackson Miller’s 10 point manifesto on why Jamaicans are killing themselves to figure out how to vote for Tessanne, why we are rooting for her, and why Jamaicans win again and again through the hard word, determination and the tears of joy…..

News and Views by Dionne Jackson Miller

  1. Who ever thought Jamaicans would be killing themselves to figure out how to vote for anyone? That alone makes the whole thing worth watching!
  2. We don’t get too many opportunities to unite behind a common cause. It’s fun to feel really patriotic. 
  3. Watching The Voice is a welcome change from crime, politics and the Jamaican economy (even for those of us in the news business!)
  4. We love to watch Jamaicans outdo other nationalities.
  5. We REALLY love to watch Jamaicans outdo Americans.
  6. It’s awesome to see award-winning stars big up one of our own.
  7. Tessanne SOUNDS like a Jamaican.
  8. She said ‘Talk de tings” on a US network.
  9. We love sharing in her journey as she tries to fulfill her dreams.
  10. She can sing! No gimmicks, sheer talent that makes us proud.

What would you add to my list? 

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‘Retrospecting’ Musically: The Link Between Ska, Toasting, Hip Hop and Dancehall

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Years ago when I was doing research for my Ph.D. in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies focussed on Jamaican dancehall culture, I became aware of the inextricable link between dancehall and hip hop. The well known story is that DJ Cool Herc’s Jamaican upbringing, his migration to the United States where he settled into a Bronx, New York music scene, and the transplantation of the toaster / DJ / mic chanting aesthetic constitutes a huge link in the flow of rhythms and performance aesthetic which produced rap and hip hop.

This is what is popularly known of Herc, and said by Franklin Bruno @HUMANFRANKLIN in this way:

“It’s the early 1970s, you’re DJ KOOL HERC (Clive Campbell, born 1955) and you’ve just invented the breakbeat, a key element of hip-hop. A West Indian immigrant weaned on Trenchtown sound-systems before moving to the Bronx with his family at age 12, Herc’s turntable technique scorched the dance floor, as intended — but it also facilitated the extension of DJs’ traditional between-song exhortations into MC’ing — that is, rapping — as we know it. And there’s the rub: though Herc dabbled in Jamaican-style “toasting,” he was neither a rapper at heart nor a nascent producer, and he was eclipsed, as early as 1977, by such worthy contemporaries as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, who took his innovations — and crews of vocalists — into the studio. Herc, however, never made a record of “his own,” and while he remains an active live DJ, especially in Europe, he has never enjoyed the financial fruits of the seed he planted. Unfair? Yes. But then, Prometheus never managed to monetize his gift to humanity either.”

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What is less said and known is the connection between African American forms of toasting and how they influenced Jamaican DJs such as U Roy before Herc could even master a turntable. This is what I say in a paper entitled ‘Negotiating a Common Transnational Space’ published in the journal Cultural Studies:

Gilroy (1993) highlights transnational music cultures from nineteenth century singers to Hip Hop, Reggae and Rap in referencing ships, sound systems, phonographs, vinyl and other technologies that facilitate crossing. Closer to home, [there’s] Chude-Sokei’s (1997) reading of [transnational impulses created by] ‘Ragga’ sound…. When one considers the movement of Jamaican DJ style, its antecedents and influence, the case of the Reggae and Dancehall transnation is effectively made:

“[Jamaican DJ] U-Roy’s prime historic place…is not only the fact that he more than any other picked up, translocated and transformed [African American DJ Jocko] Henderson’s techniques, shifting them out of the radio and recording studios into the streets, then back again, but also in the fact that he in turn provided the model for the expatriate Jamaican Sound Systems that would take over The Bronx in the early 1970s and eventually form the foundation for Hip hop and rap. “Your Ace from Space”, as an expression and a cultural marker, establishes and signifies the transversal cultural history that unites African American and Jamaican popular culture across a half-century, from Henderson to Beckford to The Bronx and on to Shaggy on one hand, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard [ODB] on another, ODB being a straight incarnation of late 1960s Beckford” (Olu Oguibe, email communication, February, 25, 2005).

My sincere thanks to Olu Oguibe and Annie Paul who put me in touch with him in the first place. The earlier iteration of these ideas were published in Stanley-Niaah, S. and Niaah, J. (2006) “‘Ace’ of the Dancehall Space: A Preliminary Look at U Roy’s Version and Subversion in Sound”, Social and Economic Studies special issue on popular culture, 55: 1&2, pp. 167-189. Check out the entire issue for some other cool articles.
Another link in the equation is Heather Augustyn’s articulation of the link between toasting and ska. In ‘Pick It Up, B-Boys! The Toasting/Hip-Hop Connection’ she makes the connection to ska in a fundamental way and I quote from this recent blog post of hers to extend the conversation about genealogies thus far under-explored in the ethnomusicology landscape. She asks some crucial questions. Let us both know what you think.

My good friend Michael Turner recently found and posted the above rare clip of King Stitt toasting on his Roots Knotty Roots page and I wanted to pass it along and write about it here. This particular clip interested me because I have been researching the link between toasting and early hip hop and wanted to take a few minutes to elaborate and solicit your thoughts.

King Stitt Rare Clip

As Buster Brakus notes in this clip, the backing band is Byron Lee & the Dragonaires. He notices Carl Brady on percussion who is a life-time member of Byron Lee & the Dragonaires and possibly Marvin Brooks on tambourine. Brakus says that Clancy Eccles told him that Eccles and King Stitt performed a lot with Byron’s band.

What interests me most is toasting as an art form. Count Machuki first began toasting for Tom the Great Sebastian and then came to work for Coxsone since he was skilled at attracting a crowd and keeping the crowd. Machuki says that he was so desired by the crowds that they were disappointed at the recorded version of the live performance, solidifying the concept that ska is very much a live experience. In The Rough Guide to Reggae, authors Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton quote Count Machuki. “There would be times when the records playing would, in my estimation, sound weak, so I’d put in some peps: chick-a-took, chick-a-took, chick-a-took. That created a sensation! So there were times when people went to the record shop and bought those records, took them home, and then brought them back, and say, ‘I want to hear the sound I hear at the dancehall last night!’ They didn’t realize that was Machuki’s injection in the dancehall!”

“Toasting was developed by the sound-system operators,” writes Mohair Slim. “To emphasis the music’s rhythm, the DJs chanted staccato noises over the top of the instrumental tracks that were the staple of the early dancehall. A common technique was the rapid-fire repetition of words, like “ska-ska-ska” or “get-up-get-up-get-up” also employed were locomotive-noises (“ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch”), hiccups (“he-da, he-da, he-da”) and grunts. Prince Buster, Coxsone Dodd and Byron Lee all utilised toasting to accentuate the fervour of their records.” The clip above is evidence of Byron Lee using this art form. Classic Skatalites tunes like Rocket Ship and

Legendary historian and artist Clinton Hutton says the toasting had a deeper impact on the power of the sound system. “The mike gave the voice reach and agency. The deejay could talk to the fans in the dancehall as well as to the persons outside of the dancehall. He could advertise the next dance and venue that the sound system would be playing at. He could praise the sound system owner/operator and help to brand his name and enterprise in the minds of the people. The disc jockey could dedicate a song or songs to a specific person or group of persons. He could announce the names of persons going off to England or coming from prison. Yes, he could really ‘wake the town and tell the people,’ to use a line from Daddy U-Roy. He could cover the weaknesses in a selection with live jive, with toasting, with scatting, with bawl out.”

I would argue that toasting is the grandfather of hip hop. It is evident that those who either participated in or witnessed the activity of toasting in the 1950s and 1960s Kingston, at the sound system dances brought this cultural phenomenon to the shores of the United States where it then evolved into hip hop traditions. In the 1970s, hip hop began when a disc jockey by the stage name DJ Kool Herc began hosting block parties in the South Bronx. He, like the Jamaican predecessors, toasted over the music to encourage the attention of the participants. Hip hop toasting then evolved into adding musical flourishes to the music, utilizing two turntables to create percussive effects like scratching and looping, and it then evolved into rapping completely as a vocal, rather than a few words over the existing soundtrack, and vocal percussive effects, beatboxing. Hip hop culture spread to communities throughout New York and then the world in the 1980s.

Scholar Joseph Heathcott notes the origins of hip hop culture in Jamaica. “Taking shape on the playgrounds and street corners of the South Bronx, hip-hop was from the first moment a popular cultural practice that stretched across borderlands, linking the local to the transnational. Not coincidentally, hop-hop erupted in the one American urban neighborhood with the highest concentration of Jamaican labor migrant families: the South Bronx. . . . Islanders imported with them to the South Bronx highly developed musical and electric performance cultures centered around the mobile sound system. If ska had filed to gain a purchase on the American music scene, and if reggae was only beginning to establish its credentials, it was the sound system and dance hall culture that ultimately made sense on transplanted soil. Where Jamaican genres of music only penetrated American markets obliquely, Jamaican performance practices provide enteral to the creation of hip-hop.”

Is it possible that DJ Kool Herc knew of these Jamaican toasting methods? Most definitely. DJ Kool Herc, whose real name is Clive Campbell, was born in 1955 in Kingston, Jamaica where he lived until he was 12 years old, during the height of the sound system era. He came to the Bronx in 1967. His first gig was DJing his sister’s birthday party and he did as he learned, filling the break sections of the song with toasting to keep the audiences going. This is not to say that DJ Kool Herc was merely imitating the originals, and indeed he was innovative by incorporating the turntables themselves in future gigs to create additional techniques that became separate from the ska genre and a part of the hip-hop genre, but credit is due the first toasters—Count Machuki, King Stitt, and Sir Lord Comic.

See the full post with video here: http://skabook.com/foundationska/2013/11/pick-b-boys-toastinghip-hop-connection/

What do we really know about our dance heritage?

Juke Box Dancing

What do we really know about our dance heritage?

Whether it is West African students dancing at school

or the Soukous Dance Style

here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90xRDYruyN8

or

here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAKyaz9QHWQ&list=PLEFD86BC9ED72ED6B

a Southern African dance troupe

or a Zulu dance cropped-dancer-takes-over-the-street-at-the-passa-passa-event.jpg

Pretty Zulu Girls show their Wedding Dance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQtRKqnuqvc 20131103-223505.jpg

or better still,  any traditional dances from Africa that may have influenced the dances we perform in the African Diaspora, what do we really know about our dance heritage?

Exclusive – African tribes dancing their culture

Ganja Tours, Medical Marijuana and the War on Drugs…..What’s the Big Deal? Pt. II

Peter Tosh – Legalize It

This is Pt.II of my round-up on the the ‘war on drugs’ and Jamaica’s place in it. Read Pt.I here 

Enter Jamaica! In the worldwide discourse about marijuana consumption linked to the war on drugs, the destruction of numerous ganja plantations, and medical marijuana endorsements,  some may say the ganja conversation has finally taken root in Jamaica, so much so, that a conference was planned, proposed papers received after circulation of a sound Call for Papers and all of a sudden, BRAPS!! it was cancelled at the last minute.

Don’t be fooled. This is not a ‘fly by night’ issue. The Report of the National Commission on Ganja headed by Barry Chevannes which earned scant regard from government for many years captured all the issues in what is a longstanding conversation beginning at a scholarly level with research done by colleagues of his – Rubin and Comitas. (Barry in fact led the local team of researchers for the Rubin and Comitas project). Here are excerpts from the book Ganja in Jamaica: The Effects of Marijuana Use by Vera Rubin & Lambros Comitas (1976):

The Jamaica study, sponsored by the Center for Studies of Narcotic and Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health, was the first project in medical anthropology to be undertaken and is the first intensive, multidisciplinary study of marihuana use and users to be published. (Foreword, Raymond Philip Shafer, pages v-vi)

… Almost unanimously, informants categorically stated that ganja, particularly in spliff form, enabled them to work harder, faster and longer. For energy, ganja is taken in the morning, during breaks in the work routine or immediately before particularly onerous work.

The belief that ganja acts as a work stimulant and the behavior that this induces casts considerable doubt on the universality of what has been described in the literature as “the amotivational syndrome,” or a “loss of desire to work, to compete, to face challenges….In Jamaica… ganja is central to a “motivational syndrome,” at least on the ideational level. Ganja, in the cultural setting of rural Jamaica, rather than hindering, permits its users to face, start and carry through the most difficult and distasteful manual labor. (page 58)

In addition, ganja, unlike alcohol, has special symbolic attributes. Rastafarian metaphysics, for example, emphasizes and brings into focus general concepts derived from working-class views of ganja. For them, it is “the wisdom weed,” of divine origin, an elixir vitae, documented by Biblical chapter and verse which over-rides man-made proscriptions. Religious authority thus validates and fortifies commitment to its use; … the sacred source of ganja permits a sense of religious communion, marked by meditation and contemplation. (page 151)

The psychiatric findings do not bear out any of the extreme allegations about the deleterious effects of chronic use of cannabis on sanity, cerebral atrophy, brain damage or personality deterioration. There is no evidence of withdrawal symptoms or reports of severe overdose reactions or of physical dependency. The psychological findings show no significant differences between long-term smokers and non-smokers.

Ganja serves multiple purposes that are essentially pragmatic, rather then psychedelic: working-class users smoke ganja to support rational task-oriented behavior, to keep “conscious,” fortify health, maintain peer group relations and enhance religious and philosophical contemplation. They express social rather than hedonistic motivations for smoking.

Ganja as an energizer is the primary motivation given for continued use. …

The failure of policy makers to realize the importance of informal social controls in preventing drug abuse is beginning to be recognized. Michael Sonnenreich, Vice-President of the National Coordinating Council on Drug Education in the United States, observed that drug-taking is socially controlled “when it is routinized, ritualized and structured so as to reduce to a minimum any drug-taking behavior the surrounding culture considers inadvisable. From this analysis there should follow a new approach.” The multidisciplinary findings reported in this volume highlight the underlying role of culture in regulating the use of ganja and conditioning reactions to it-within a structured system of social controls. (Summary, pages 172-3) (See http://csp.org/chrestomathy/ganja_in.html)

At the medical level, extensive research has been done by Henry Lowe, Chemist, Cancer Researcher and founder of the R & D Institute, who has called for carefully managed marijuana centres or better yet, a school of marijuana to be set up in Jamaica for local and overseas use to have Jamaica take advantage of its favourable position in the health tourism market. ‘Dr. Lowe believes that all drugs, including marijuana have some negative aspect to them, but the proper use of marijuana could put Jamaica ahead with health tourism’. Dr Lowe in fact welcomed CNN’s Dr Sanjay Gupta’s contribution to the ganja conversation with his endorsement of ganja’s medical benefits, even amidst other voices in Jamaica such as Anthony Gomes‘ outline of a case for medical marijuana. If we are in doubt therefore, there is no mistaking that the ganja lobby has now been fired up especially in light of initiatives such as that ill-fated Ganja Conference.

Dr Sanjay Gupta’s CNN Special “WEED”

Don’t look aghast at Dr Lowe’s suggestion, it is already taking place informally with ‘Ganja Tours’ recently documented in The Guardian. ‘Breezy’ who starred in the article “was showing his illegal patch of budding marijuana plants during a tour of his land”. Writer McFadden stated that “in Jamaica, farmers are offering a different kind of trip for a different type of connoisseur. Call them ganja tours: smoky, mystical – and technically illegal – journeys to some of the island’s hidden cannabis plantations, where pot tourists can sample such strains as “purple kush” and “pineapple skunk”. And, ganja tours are no novelty; they already take place in countries such as the Netherlands.

Jamaica's cannabis tours

Initiatives in 2013 alone saw various calls to decriminalise marijuana including motions brought by Raymond Pryce, Member of Parliament for North East St. Elizabeth, in the House of Representatives on October 8, 2013 amidst extensive debate. The motion comes after much legal and social considerations around criminal sanctions for marijuana use, with climbing numbers incarcerated for such. These initiatives come at the end of a long line of interventions beginning with the recommendations of the National Report on Ganja (2001), outlining the social, medical as well as economic case for legalising ganja.

But hold on. My interest was also piqued with a groundbreaking article published in the November 5 edition of the Jamaica Observer outlining that ganja had received government protection in a pact with Switzerland.  “‘Jamaica’, ‘Blue Mountain Coffee’, ‘Cannabis Sativa’ (ganja); ‘Jamaica Rum’, ‘Jamaican Patties’, ‘Boston Jerk’, ‘Jamaican Ginger’ and ‘Trelawny Yellow Yam’ are among names and brands that Jamaica is moving to protect against misuse or false use.”

It gets  more interesting. Here’s what the article revealed:

“The island recently inked a historymaking bilateral agreement with Switzerland on the protection of geographical indications at the 51st General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva. The Jamaica Protection of Geographical Indications Act of 2004 defines “geographical indication” as a good originating in the territory of a country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. Geographical indications serve as important marketing tools in the trading of quality products on the export market, and this has spurred like-minded countries, in this case Jamaica and Switzerland, to negotiate bilateral protection agreements under the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). These agreements mutually recognise and protect geographical indications in order to facilitate and promote trade with each other, for products and services identified with such designations…The Jamaica Intellectual Property Office and the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property are the authorities designated to act as contact points between both countries on any matter covered by this new bilateral pact, which must be ratified by the governments of both sides in order for it to come into force.”

“Some other protected designations of Jamaica include Jamaican High Mountain Coffee, Catherine’s Peak water, Jamaican Roots wine, Jamaican Jerk, Walkerswood Jerk, Jamaican Allspice, St Andrew Thyme, Jamaica Logwood Honey, Lucea Yam, Jamaica Scotch Bonnet Pepper, Manchester Peppermint, St Elizabeth Escallion, St Elizabeth Thyme, Middle Quarters Shrimps, and Jamaican Pimento. The list also includes Jamaican Ortanique, Jamaican Cocoa, Jamaican Red Pepper, Jamaican Patties, Jamaican Easter Bun, Jamaican Bun, Jamaican Jackass Corn, Bustamante Jaw Bone/ Backbone, Jamaican Paradise Plum, Jamaican Potato Pudding, Jamaican Gizzada, Jamaican Bammy, St Elizabeth Bammy, Jamaican Bissy, Jamaican Cannabis Sativa (For eg CANASOL and ASMASOL), Jamaican Blue Mahoe, Jamaican Cedar, Jamaican Lignum Vitae, Jamaican Bauxite, Jamaica Clay, Jamaican Limestone, St Elizabeth Hodges Clay, Castleton Clay, and Jamaican Thatch.”

So finally there is a move on the part of Jamaica’s power brokers and government officials  to get into the dialogue about marijuana’s decriminalisation and even protection under the law for its citizens and brand related elements. What is of course missing is the conversation on hemp, and the production of value added products for a global hemp economy.

In my study of reggae festivals, the link between Rastafari, hemp production, marijuana use and decriminalisation collided as I tried to disaggregate and classify festivals. Hemp Festivals become worthy of mention as their association with a reggae and in particular Rastafari ethos and livity is unmistakable. Examples of Hemp Festivals include   Portland’s annual Hempstalk Festival (7-8 September, 2013 http://www.hempstalk.org/); Emerald Empire Hemp Fest (Eugene, Oregon 19-21 July, 2013 http://www.emeraldempirehempfest.com/), Ann Arbor Hash Bash (since 1972,  Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA http://www.annarbor.com/news/40-years-of-hash-bash-marijuana-festival-that-started-in-early-1970s-still-going-strong-in-ann-arbor/); Annual Hemp Fest (8-9 November 2013, Humboldt County, California http://www.mateel.org/hempfest.html), and Extravaganja, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA http://masscann.org/masscann/freedom-rally. Many normally feature reggae acts, but the focus is more on legalisation of marijuana and other political ends. They help to highlight a rather sore history of Rastafari and reggae’s engagement with, on the one hand, marijuana use as a sacrament in groundations and celebrations such as Nyabinghi gatherings as well as personal use, but on the other hand, a crucial injustice around persecution for marijuana use based on the ‘war on drugs’ campaign initiated by, among others, the USA which continues to strengthen its marijuana industry. The irony of course is that as Jamaica’s security forces insist on and enforce eradication of marijuana cultivation and export, so is the United States government advancing legislation to increase medical use of marijuana, legalisation of hemp production and decriminalisation of recreational uses of marijuana. It is important to note that declaration of marijuana as a drug dates back to to the early 17th century USA laws with increased restrictions and prohibitions manifesting in the early to mid-20th Century.

I leave you with Peter Tosh’s speech about legalization, Montego Bay,1982-11-27 at the Jamaican World Music Festival. Where are we really? What is the big deal about in the face of such hypocrisy?

Peter Tosh – Speech about Legalization- Montego Bay,1982-11-27

Ganja Tours, Medical Marijuana and the War on Drugs…..What’s the Big Deal? Pt. I

The ‘war on drugs’ has been so loud that we’ve been prevented from hearing the sounds that make sense for people who have found social, medical, professional, economic or spiritual benefits from Marijuana.  After a series of reports, documentaries and local conversations even at the parliamentary level, I was moved to write this review. It is my own attempt to reveal what has been a vexed conversation fraught with, among other things, problems, hypocrisy, ignorance, disrespect and sabotage.

Having been exposed to marijuana use as a culture among university students and colleagues, I had a sense of Jamaica’s deep attachment to marijuana especially in the context of the Rastafari community for which ganja is the holy herb. While my interest at a cultural level was solid, my interest at an academic and personal level, even at the level of advocacy, began when I began to see the hypocrisy around a ‘war on drugs’ that excluded those waging said war. My quest picked up steam when @stuartsmellie introduced me to The Union: The Business of Getting High, popularly referred to as ‘The Best Marijuana Documentary’, which I watched, shared and continue to speak of as one of the most comprehensive visual representations of the marijuana conundrum.

The Best Marijuana Documentary

Most significantly, the legal history of cannabis in the United States cannot be avoided in contextualising the problem so go ahead and take a look. Supported by the Best Marijuana Documentary above, that history becomes interesting at a legal level especially when analysing marijuana use for medical, spiritual and most importantly economic reasons. Just in case you are unaware, some 20 States along with the capital have proceeded with various levels of decriminalisation especially for medical use.

States With Legal Medical Marijuana as at November 2013 http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881

State Year Passed How Passed
(Yes Vote)
Fee Possession Limit
1. Alaska 1998 Ballot Measure 8 (58%) $25/$20 1 oz usable; 6 plants (3 mature, 3 immature)
2. Arizona 2010 Proposition 203 (50.13%) $150/$75 2.5 oz usable; 0-12 plants2
3. California 1996 Proposition 215 (56%) $66/$33 8 oz usable; 6 mature or 12 immature plants4
4. Colorado 2000 Ballot Amendment 20 (54%) $35 2 oz usable; 6 plants (3 mature, 3 immature)
5. Connecticut 2012 House Bill 5389 (96-51 House, 21-13 Senate) TBD* One-month supply (exact amount to be determined)
6. DC 2010 Amendment Act B18-622 (13-0 vote) $100/$25 2 oz dried; limits on other forms to be determined
7. Delaware 2011 Senate Bill 17 (27-14 House, 17-4 Senate) $125 6 oz usable
8. Hawaii 2000 Senate Bill 862 (32-18 House; 13-12 Senate) $25 3 oz usable; 7 plants (3 mature, 4 immature)
9. Illinois 2013 House Bill 1 (61-57 House; 35-21 Senate) TBD* 2.5 ounces of usable cannabis during a period of 14 days
10. Maine 1999 Ballot Question 2 (61%) No fee 2.5 oz usable; 6 plants
11. Massachusetts 2012 Ballot Question 3 (63%) TBD7 Sixty day supply for personal medical use
12. Michigan 2008 Proposal 1 (63%) $100/$25 2.5 oz usable; 12 plants
13. Montana 2004 Initiative 148 (62%) $25/$10 1 oz usable; 4 plants (mature); 12 seedlings
14. Nevada 2000 Ballot Question 9 (65%) $2008 1 oz usable; 7 plants (3 mature, 4 immature)
15. New
Hampshire
2013 House Bill 573 (284-66 House; 18-6 Senate) TBD* Two ounces of usable cannabis during a 10-day period
16. New Jersey 2010 Senate Bill 119 (48-14 House; 25-13 Senate) $200/$20 2 oz usable
17. New Mexico 2007 Senate Bill 523 (36-31 House; 32-3 Senate) $0 6 oz usable; 16 plants (4 mature, 12 immature)
18. Oregon 1998 Ballot Measure 67 (55%) $200/$10010 24 oz usable; 24 plants (6 mature, 18 immature)
19. Rhode Island 2006 Senate Bill 0710 (52-10 House; 33-1 Senate) $75/$10 2.5 oz usable; 12 plants
20. Vermont 2004 Senate Bill 76 (22-7) HB 645 (82-59) $50 2 oz usable; 9 plants (2 mature, 7 immature)
21. Washington 1998 Initiative 692 (59%) ** 24 oz usable; 15 plants

The United States is moving full speed ahead at the State level with various levels of decriminalisation ahead of a ‘backward’ federal machinery that has been ‘conveniently’ slow in making bold moves that States have been given the liberty to make. The United States’ ganja economy is boosting the overall economy especially of States such as Colorado where ‘ganjapreneurship’ is the order of the day. Look no further than Doug Fine’s recently published book Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution which seals the point and puts needed perspective on marijuana’s benefits to the the USA, specifically in boosting the economy, reducing the prison population, and ending the drug war death toll.

While some countries have had long histories of marijuana consumption and even relaxed legal frameworks, some have had trouble with renewed interest in clamping down on use in pot shops such as the Netherlands. Arguably though, at the international level, it is Uruguay that has been most vocal on the sale of marijauna in tandem with calls from many quarters  to legalise marijuana for tax revenue in the United States. President José Mujica is determined to make new moves in the fight against criminals. The Uruguayan plan is ‘to create a government-run legal marijuana industry to combat criminals’. Similarly, Israel is clear that legalising cannabis will boost its economic revenues.

Stay tuned for Part II of this post which takes the conversation to Jamaica.

Jamaica's cannabis tours