Oaksterdam University Takes on Exciting Educational, Research and Licensing Guidance Roles in First Caribbean Country to Decriminalize Cannabis
Jamaica is one of the most cannabis-friendly nations in the world. Many are familiar with and associate this island with Bob Marley, the Rastafari musician who introduced reggae music and dreadlocks to the world and the 1976 song “Legalize It” written by Peter Tosh, another reggae musician who first performed the song with Marley as part of the Wailers.
Until 2015, cannabis was illegal in Jamaica. For the most part, marijuana and smoking marijuana had been ignored by the police there despite its availability. According to a blog post written by Keith Stroup, NORML’s legal counsel last July, the Jamaica NORML chapter had proposed legalization on at least two occasions in the 1990s. The majority of legislators wanted to officially legalize cannabis, but senior government officials did not move forward with legalization because of the dependence the country had on important aid programs from the United States. At that time the U.S. could, and did, leverage this to dismantle Jamaica’s reform efforts. With the growing number of U.S. states legalizing medical cannabis, this leverage weakened and last February Jamaican lawmakers decriminalized marijuana and established a licensing agency to regulate a lawful medical cannabis industry on the island.
Stepping High is the first and longest running ganja festival in Jamaica and the Caribbean. For 11 years the event was underground and primarily promoted by word-of-mouth. Despite many restraints, the Festival has become an enviable brand showcasing the finest strains of cannabis and a musical extravaganza that attracts tourists from around the world. Last year was the first year the event celebrated as a fully legal event.
“Oaksterdam has partnered with Stepping High because of its focus on cannabis, the community, the Jamaican people, and the local jobs made available because of the festival,” said Dr. Aseem Sappal, Provost and Dean of Faculty for Oaksterdam University. “Now is an exciting time. In addition to partnering with Stepping High, we’re also working with the Jamaican government and the University of West Indies, where we are involved in helping lead important cannabis research and development.”
Khim Connell, a member of the family who founded Stepping High and a Professor of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy at the University of the West Indies, Mona, said, “We can’t express how elated we are to be collaborating with Oaksterdam University this year. To have the first cannabis college in the U.S. on board is an honor. “
Connell continued, “We see it as an opportunity through which we can both benefit through an exchange of knowledge because knowledge does not manifest out of thin air but is built upon previous knowledge – what is termed as “traditional knowledge” – which then develops into modern knowledge systems. There is always a need for a balance between the traditional and the modern in order to benefit from a holistic kind of development; and I think that is one of the things that this collaboration symbolizes – holistic development. “
This incredible event, which is the first and longest running Ganja Festival focused on Rastafari culture, spirituality and community, is just a few weeks away. Attending is sure to be an experience you will long remember.
Stepping High Festival 2016
This year’s event will feature two cannabis competitions to judge the highest quality Jamaican marijuana. The Best in the West contest entries will be from Western Jamaica, and the Nation’s Best contest will include entries from ganja farmers island-wide.
Artists performing at the Festival offer positive and uplifting lyrics and rhythms and include: Akae Beka (Vaughn Benjamin of Midnight) performing for the very first time in Jamaica, China Smith and Inna mi yard experience, Prof I, King Fragrance, Dann-I, Loyal Flames, I- Wayne, Cali P, Ice Block, Wild Life, Terry Ganzie, Principal Grundy, Tuff like Iron, Empress Isachar, Empress Minott, Empress Joyce, Yung Jr, Kyng Sharlo & Anthony Abele.
In addition to the Jamaican Ganja Cup and entertainment, Oaksterdam University will be conducting educational seminars and there will be other activities including a Canna Fashion Show, a Dub Poet Session, health and wellness activities, the launching of an exclusive Space Station, and much more. Festival gates open March 5th from 12:00 PM to 2:00 AM and March 6th from 10:00 AM to Midnight.