Buju Banton found guilty of ganja charges

Reggae entertainer, Buju Banton, was yesterday found guilty of possession and cultivation of marijuana on the final day of his trial in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court.

The entertainer will be sentenced on Monday by Resident Magistrate Hissock Laing who presided over the trial. Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was arrested by police from the Constant Spring Station on the night of December 3 when lawmen entered his recording studio and unearthed two fully-grown ganja plants. Police said they were on an operation in the area when they saw a man acting suspiciously. The man ran onto the entertainer's premises and was chased by the cops. After a search of the premises, two fully grown ganja plants were found and the artiste was arrested and charged by corporal Phillip Dodd, cops said. The cops also reported that Banton behaved disrespectfully towards them when they attempted to carry out their duties.\r\nAnother man, who was on the premises at the time, was held with five sticks of ganja and was also charged, police said.

When Myrie appeared in court on Thursday, he explained the Rastafarian tradition of burning fire in a tabernacle in response to questions posed by clerk of the court, Thomas Levene, who had asked about a thatch-roofed structure that was at the rear of Banton\'s premises. "Your honour, it is an ancient custom. A fire is lit and everyone puts a piece of wood in the fire. The fire is the purest of the elements," Banton told the judge.\r\n\"It is a tabernacle. We use it to worship and burn fire. Banton also gave sworn evidence that he did not know ganja plants were on his premises. According to the Rastafarian entertainer, a gardener known as "Elder" was responsible for tending to the grounds of his Carlisle Avenue-based business.\r\n\"I do not tend to the plants. Neither am I aware what is around there," Banton said while being questioned by his attorney, Christopher Dunkley. Dunkley also handed over photocopies of Myrie's passport which showed that the artiste was off the island, on tour promoting his latest album, 'Friends For Life', for almost 10 months last year. "I do not earn my bread from cultivation of marijuana," Myrie told the court. 

Yesterday a host of artistes turned up at the court house to show support for the entertainer. Included among them was gospel DJ, Stitchie, along with dancehall deejays General B, New Kidz and Galaxy P, singer Tony Curtis and selector Swamp King.