Butts pushes for ‘herbs’ as tea, medicine
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Vibert “Durdy” Butts
Vibert “Durdy” Butts

By Alva Solomon
“IT’S a herb! While a drug is something you formalise in a lab. And you cannot be categorising a drug and a herb at the same time.”
That’s according to Vibert “Durdy” Butts, the dreadlocked football coach who has been at the centre of discussions in the quest to legalise marijuana.
Looking relaxed, Butts said during an interview recently that being a Rastafarian for many years, he has been deeply involved in the readings of the Bible and he quoted verses as he made comparable arguments regarding the use of herbs.
“Being a Rasta, I praise Haile Selassie as Creator, and I read the Scriptures and its guidelines,” he said.

Butts, regarded as a national hero, having scored Guyana’s lone goal at a football World Cup match, is a member of the Nyahbingi order of the Rastafarian community.
He has been dreadlocked for years, and even when he resided in the United States for more than two decades, he has been involved in the culture of the community which emerged in the island of Jamaica as early as 1930.
According to Butts, the Rastafarians use the plant for religious purposes. “The herb can be considered as a sacrament in the way of our life, and it is used for medical purposes too,” he said, adding that since his youthful days, he has used herbs in many forms, including tea.
“I mean, the herb is a plant; this is something God created; this is not like cocaine where somebody carry it in a lab and add some chemical,” Butts said, adding: “This is a drug from the Almighty.” He compared it to ‘sweet-broom’ and ‘daisy’, other plants used for medicinal and tea purposes.

To this end, he argued strongly that the drug should be legalised in controlled quantities, adding that some amount of leniency should be placed on first-time offenders. He said that many young men appear unmoved by the penalties instituted against them for trafficking and being in possession of drugs.
“It’s not like the penalties for the first-time offenders scaring these youths. It is not. It seems the more you put them in prison, you won’t see them deterring from this thing,” he said. Butts recommends that a probation system be put in place, whereby first-time offenders are given less stringent penalties.
He noted that he was actively involved in gathering data, and making a case for the legislation, which will be taken to Parliament on December 17. Butts said that he is dedicating his energy to having the mandatory sentence amended in the long- run, and for legalisation being in the bigger picture.
But how can the Guyanese public be convinced?
Butts said that persons would have noticed the calls being made to amend the laws, and according to him, the media has been playing an important role in providing information to the public on the issue.

He said that persons may be of the premise that only Rastafarians are users of the herb, but according to him, it is used countrywide by many, including professionals. “They have lawyers, doctors… everybody utilise the herb to get calmness; to get pleasurable times,” Butts said.
He said that there have been many road fatality cases attributed to drunk driving, while many have had their drivers’ licenses suspended because of alcohol use. He said that such comparisons should not even be made, since “one is a plant, and the other goes through a process of additives.”
As regards the politicians, Butts said that they are human beings, and they will understand the current situation. “During the elections time, some Rastafarians didn’t even vote for the Rastaman who was running. And it is just a proposal we are taking to Parliament, because they said they will look into it while campaigning,” Butts explained.
If the laws are enacted, Butts believes a system will be put in place to address issues which may arise, regarding abuse or overuse of the drug. “I don’t see it as a Bill to be passed which would allow people to be on the road smoking. I cannot support that”, Butts said.

Education of the uses and penalties regarding the herbs would be one of the more important matters to address, Butts posited.
Butts expressed appreciation to several persons, including lawyers Nigel Hughes and Mark Waldron, the Benchop Foundation and his relatives, as well as persons here and overseas who assisted him while he was incarcerated recently.
Social activist Mark Benchop, who was present during the interview, said that he had seen how prison life could change a first offender for the rest of his life and according to him, while he was a non-smoker, he was part of the movement to amend the laws. He said that the country had to move in the direction where young persons were not criminalized and placed in the prison system which ultimately destroys them. The time had come for the government to look into the issue, he stated.
Alliance For Change, Member of Parliament, Michael Carrington is expected to move a motion next week which will seek to amend the current narcotics laws which mandate the imprisonment of persons found with 15 grammes or more of cannabis and cannabis resin.

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