Spencer Kellogg | @TheNewTreasury
Recently, I awoke with a jolt. The dim moon was hanging low in the morning sky and although I counted sheep, I couldn’t fall back into slumber. As I lay in bed staring out the window, Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” sprung into my head. Curled up in my sheets, I grabbed my pipe and took a long, smooth hit. There’s just an undeniable communion between Bob Marley, his music and the sweet aroma of cannabis.
In his life, Marley was a passionate advocate of cannabis and the culture that grew from his music reflects that. Countless pictures document the reggae star’s affinity for the cannabis plant and in interviews, Marley was perhaps the greatest defender of the substance as a religious, peaceful, and communal experience. His iconic 1973 album, “Catch A Fire,” featured Marley smoking a joint on its cover.
© Island Records, 2001
In the mid-1960s Bob Marley converted from Christianity to Rastafarianism. In the Rasta’s religion, cannabis is used for meditation & holy insights. Surprisingly, some devout Rastas don’t smoke cannabis at all and contrary to public belief, Marley smoked the plant to help tap into his faith.
Marley’s promotion of the herb collided with the work that he created. For Marley, cannabis opened up a spiritual and creative avenue that allowed him to be the poet and artist that he was.
The more you accept herb, the more you accept Rastafari. Herb is so good for everything. Why, these people who want to do so much “good,” who call themselves government and this and that, why do they say you must not use the herb? They say: “no you must not use it because it makes you rebel.” Against what?
For many, Bob Marley and the country of Jamaica represented a counter-culture ideology fundamentally rooted in anti-state libertarianism. Where Marley led others followed and after his conversion to Rastafarianism thousands in his native Jamaica joined him. Behind a simple message of peace and prosperity, Marley shouldered the new political realities of a war-torn Jamaica.
Marley’s progressive attitude on marijuana helped establish him in college dorm rooms and at major concert venues across the Western world. The transparency in his lyricism and character resonated throughout the globe and he quickly became arguably the most vocal advocate of cannabis in the 20th century.
Today it’s difficult to separate the man from myth and as is often true with pop culture his music and image became so diluted behind corporate ownership that many have forgotten what made Marley so unique. His deep faith in Rastafarianism and the necessity of a spiritual relationship with God is what drove his music and politics to unforeseen heights. It was with this power that he stood on the shoulders of giants and spoke of peace and love in a world of war.
I’m back in my bed and it’s late. The wind is wailing something terrific and as I count the cracks in the wall I can remember the first time I smoked pot. Bob Marley was on the radio.
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