A conventional reggae song reverberates in the background as a group of youth wrapped a joint plucked from their pockets.
Unlike in the capital or towns, weed, here, is a ubiquitous commodity and easily accessible to buyers transporting it discreetly to waiting distributors in the urban areas. Marijuana is grown over here by natives in Jinack, a tiny village in the north of Gambia, separated by an estuary.
Also dubbed ‘Paradise Island’ for its low-lying 10km land, the plant is feverishly cultivated by natives, processed and sold.
Government’s clamp down on it or on anyone involved in its trade is apparent and those caught risk jail. Considered a stimulant drug and thus prohibited, several have been arrested, paraded on national TV and convicted for its use alone.
However, in Jinack, that drama, and for all its fuss, stops only in the capital.
The scenario here is totally a different ball game with security personnel even the middle men carting away tones of already processed cannabis, says Mawdo –not his real name –a resident there.
Mawdo boils cannabis fresh from his farm over a fiercely raging coal-pot, lacing the content with drops of tine milk.
“Fresh cannabis tea, just from the ganja farm and we bring it here. It is good for the body, it can cure lot of things,” Mawdo says with a touch of Patwa, a predominant local dialect popular in Jamaica.
Jinack is no Jamaica but this Niumi village has all the attributes of the Caribbean nation where the plant is sold with zero restrictions, most like prevalent cigarette packets in Serrekunda, a thirty minute’s drive away from the West Africa country’s headquarters.
“Welcome to the island,” another said, smilingly as he unwraps a chunk of marijuana, picking the seeds from the shrubs.
Mawdo then walked us to his ganja farm –we will not give coherent description of the location for his safety.
“We’re lucky to have this kind of island. No police. Free like a bird in the sky. In the Island here, it is legal. Our forefather made juju here. They protected the island. If you are police and you come to the island, if you don’t die you will run mad or get sacked. We don’t take matters to the police. Any problems we have, we settle it in the village,” Mawdo says.