Community Focus: Ganja farmers accuse police of extortion
Grass-roots and unlicensed ganja farmers in Orange Hill, Westmoreland, have labelled members of the police force as extortionists.
They have accused the lawmen of collecting money from them to avoid being taken to jailed and prosecuted for cultivating the weed.
According to Joe*, a ganja farmer for more than 15 years, the police invade their ganja farms very often, where they use weed wackers to destroy their crops.
He said the lawmen allegedly forced many of the farmers to leave their fields and homes to go to the nearest ATM to withdraw undisclosed sums of money that are used to pay for their freedom.
"The authority (police) is like extortionist. They come in with weed wacker in one hand and the other hand is stretched out," Joe told the WESTERN STAR team.
"So the poor farmer has to go to the ATM (bank) to draw money to take back to that police, and it has been frustrating for the farmers," he said, as several others nodded and echoed similar statements.
Joe said the hostility of the lawmen has caused farmers to be suffering and that the extortion takes place regularly.
"Orange Hill has been suffering for a long time. Yes, the farmers grow their crop (ganja), but the authorities (police) come in and cut it down ever so often, every month end," Joe said.
However, when contacted, the Corporate Communications Unit (CCU) of the police force said it was not aware of such practice as no reports of this alleged extortion ring have been made.
"We are not aware of it (police extorting money from ganja farmers) as there is no report that was made. So until there is a report, we can't launch an investigation into it," Sergeant Shaunjaye Mitchell, the sub officer at the CCU. "In order for us to commence an investigation into any matter, a report needs to be lodged with the police."
Mitchell is also urging farmers to utilise the services of other investigation agencies if they are afraid to report these matter to the local police.
" ... If persons are afraid, there are other entities that a report can be lodged with, to include the Independent Commission of Investigations, or the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption agency, for an independent investigation to take place," Mitchell said.