Marijuana has been smoked since the time of the Pinnacle commune in the 1940s. The specific form of marijuana smoked is known as ‘ganja’ in Jamaica. It is a sacrament for the Rastafari. It was seen as a way of opposing colonial society and asserting their own authentic form of freedom. Since it is illegal in Jamaica, smoking ganja is a way of showing freedom from the laws of Babylon, although recently it was decriminalised in small amounts for religious use by practising adult Rastafari. Furthermore, it is believed that ganja enhances spiritual states and reduces stress, produces visions, brings unity and communal feelings, and bestows tranquillity to the dispossessed. Ganja has become a dominant symbol of the Rastafari, who call it ‘callie’ and ‘iley’. Ganja is seen as a natural product or herb, not as a drug. For the Rastafari, the free smoking of ganja is a religious right and an issue of religious freedom; however it is seen as criminal activity by most governments. One of the reasons Rastafari in the 20th century were associated with criminality by authorities is their connection with growing and distributing marijuana.
Rastafari have a strict diet called Ital, or ‘natural’ food, which means the essence of things or things in their natural states. Ital refers to “a complex of lifeways that offer an alternative to the unnatural man-made Babylon system” (Christensen 2014: 142). The Ital complex came from the I-gelic House mansion who lived in the hills beyond the Kingston ghetto in the mid-1950s to mid-1960s. Ital food is mostly fruit and vegetables, grown without fertilisers. Rastafari are not allowed to consume alcohol, milk, coffee, salt, animal oil, cigarettes, heroin, or cocaine. Vegetarianism is preferred, but those who do eat meat avoid pork, shellfish, scaleless fish or snails, and fish over 12 inches long. This is similar to the Jewish Kosher diet, and Rastafaris are following the same Leviticus dietary and hygiene rules. Additionally, pig and cod are associated with slave food. Pigs are taboo animals. Rastafari prefer food from their own plantations and avoid food from unknown sources. They follow the principle of naturalism in personal care as well, washing hair with only water and locally grown herbs. They avoid chemically processed goods, they do not use soap or shampoo. Dreadlocks form when hair is left alone and unbrushed, but some do comb and groom them. Herbs and things from the earth are good. They also follow Old Testament prohibitions on trimming or shaving the hair, tattoos, and cutting flesh in any way, as mentioned above. Women do not wear makeup, use hair chemicals, or wear immodest clothes. Some women observe menstrual taboos and cannot cook for their husbands while menstruating. Rastafari reject war as the destructive practice of Babylon and tend to be pacifists.