Sean Paul Speaks Out About Cannabis Legalization, Persecution, and Consumption

Award-winning musician Sean Paul on the cannabis situation in Jamaica, creating music, and making edibles.
Sean Paul Speaks Out About Cannabis Legalization, Persecution, and Consumption
Courtesy of Sean Paul

In the early 2000s, Sean Paul rose to fame despite his island of Jamaica being the second poorest country in the Caribbean. He beat the odds that were stacked against him by emerging into an award-winning, international recording artist. 

Throughout his career, he has released many hit singles that landed on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, with the three classics, ‘Temperature,’ ‘Cheap Thrills,’ and ‘Get Busy,’ peaking at number one. This in and of itself is nothing short of a huge success. 

In 2013, Sean won a Grammy for the ‘best reggae album,’ Dutty Rock, in addition to scoring an award for ‘the best new music’ at the MTV Europe Music Awards. He has been nominated more than 30 times for a number of prestigious music awards. 

Sean has maintained his relevance in the music industry ever since he skyrocketed to international stardom. To this day, he continues to dazzle his fans with his songs and performances. 

This year, he has not one but two albums dropping. His upcoming album Live N Livin’ is set to release next month and we’re sure it’s gonna be hot. With all of the tracks featuring other Jamaican dancehall and reggae artists, we can expect to hear some epic collaborations. 

Sean’s second upcoming album of the year, Scorcher, is dropping later in May. There are rumors spreading—stating that quite a few of the tracks are featuring female recording artists, including Sia and Gwen Stefani. This is leading many people to believe that this album in particular is targeted more so towards the ladies. 

During our conversation, Sean Paul opened up about all things related to cannabis for an exclusive High Times interview. 

How does creating and producing music benefit from the twists and turns of a marijuana high? 

Well, ganja gets me in a euphoric mood, the kind that takes me back to any of those times when I felt dope. That’s what I like about it—pot is a very creative substance. Even when I sang the song, ‘Gimme the Light,’  I can say that it helped me out a lot, you know what I’m saying?

You stopped smoking flower a few years ago though, right? 

I did stop for five years because I have asthma, but I started smoking again around Christmas [lifts blunt up.]

For five months [after the pandemic hit,] I stopped smoking, I was paranoid, for five months like yo, not me! I just stayed at home. I didn’t do anything. But I started to come to the studio a little bit and put together a new album—actually two this year—which is coming out in March. The second one is coming in May. So I’ve been really creative, I’ve been loving the family time at home… that’s something I don’t get to take full advantage of. It’s been a year, I haven’t traveled in a year. It’s pretty cool, I love it, and it’s helped to keep me focused, come back to the studio, create music. 

So, you know… it ebbs and flows. There are times when I smoke and other times when I’ll only take edibles. But yeah, the point is, I’m a ganja person, you know? 

Since pot is known for complimenting the joy of music, do you think your fans react differently to your songs when they’re stoned? 

Yo, I’m too stoned to even answer that question! [laughs] 

I don’t know. I guess with most things, when you turn on the light, things are different when you’re smoking or ingesting weed. That’s the beauty of it, some things pop out to you that normally seem boring or uninteresting. When you get high, it makes you stop and look at life, you know? Like, even the color purple becomes way better. So yeah, my fans probably like my songs more [when they’re stoned.]

Did marijuana help you accomplish your career goals?

Honestly, I’m not saying because of ganja I’m here, I’m not saying it made me create every song I ever wrote, but I just don’t see it to be a bad thing. I believe that alcohol is worse—your liver, driving skills. I’ve never smoked a spliff and then walked down the road and been like ‘ehhhhh,” all fucked up

Often BIPOC are persecuted while the Caucasian race gets a slap on the wrist for the same cannabis offense. How do you feel about this?

I’m very pissed off about it. There have been many years when people were incarcerated for very small issues, which made a lot of people paranoid about using a natural substance that is proven to heal the nation. When it comes down to discoveries about CBD and how it reacts with the brain—there’s nothing else you can really attach to that. All of that is incredible, and this means that weed is there for us, you know what I mean? 

There are heroes like Peter Tosh (a reggae musician,) who was beaten up like seven times in Jamaica for smoking [cannabis.] My father crashed a ganja plane in the Everglades around 1982. He was then deported from America and never had the opportunity to return to the states. He passed away in 2018. There are a lot of opportunities in life that he missed out on because of the natural substance many governments refuse to legalize. 

Now, I see the same politicians being like, “Pay me $250,000 and get your license,” you know what I mean? The same politicians, the same businessmen. So it’s been a sore point for a long time, but I think a lot of strides have been made in the past few years.

How do you feel about the many people you’ve known, including other artists, who were convicted of nonviolent possession of marijuana offenses? 

Upset, because we ourselves smoke, but we know that some people can’t handle asparagus, you know what I’m saying? Some people cannot handle vodka, this type of alcohol makes them itch all over—myself, for instance. I don’t like vodka. I’ve enjoyed it, but when I drink too much, I get itchy. 

There are some people who react to marijuana differently but for most of us, it’s been a euphoric expression that gets us in a creative mood—it sets me in as an artist. Even when I’m not being an artist, pot still puts me in a positive mood. 

There was a case out here against a youngster, Mario Deane, a couple years ago, and he went to prison for possessing one spliff. I don’t know what kind of things happened to him on the inside, but he was brutalized there until he finally passed away after three fellow inmates beat him to death in his cell. 

This is still happening, which is ridiculous, especially when we are seeing examples of people in California changing cannabis to a recreational status—also freeing it up in Colorado, freeing it up in Amsterdam, and other places around the world.

Yeah, it’s now decriminalized in many places and it’s decriminalized here, but the incident with Mario Deane happened before that point, about five years ago. All of this makes me angry because we’ve been told that it’s a substance that is in a scheduled category which I personally just don’t feel.

Sean Paul Speaks Out About Cannabis Legalization, Persecution, and Consumption
Courtesy of Sean Paul

What role do you think our federal government needs to play in the legalization of cannabis? What hopes do you have?

I want to tell you my fear first. When [pharmaceutical] companies mass produce, the products often lose some of the essence of what the medicine was designed for—this happens for so many different reasons. 

I understand business, too, but there’s a point in time, like for me and my music when I try to stick to the roots—no matter how much the music industry pushes me to do some extraordinary things to keep the money coming in. I do attempt to keep the cash flowing but only while remaining true to my roots and values. For the cannabis industry, I hope they stay strong without forgetting to stay true to the roots.  

What I mean to say is, legalization has a lot to do with quality. I feel it here, I feel it here. That’s why I go to the real, original farmers rather than dispensaries. I know the federal government can see that pot is needed as a form of medicine, but for whatever reason, they don’t like freedom, you know? 

The CBD in cannabis helps reduce pain and inflammation. There are a lot of people who’ve been on hard drugs and marijuana proved to be a beneficial asset for them, to relieve themselves of active addiction. There’s also a lot of people who were depressed, but when they started using marijuana, new doors and possibilities opened up for them. 

Prisons are filling up and I’m sure it’s taxing people a lot. What people learn in prison is how to survive in the rawest way, how to survive on the skills they learn in there. This often leads to people coming out with a worse state of mind and new skills that could often lead to them to getting locked up again. 

You learn new things where you are, in different environments, right? You adapt. So, it’s a crazy system that’s happening. I’d love to see our governments realize that their methods don’t make much sense. But maybe it’s being pushed by money, I don’t know. 

I’m not a fan of medical marijuana here in New York. 

It tastes like cardboard. 

Do you feel that cannabis is symbolic of one of the few freedoms that the poverty-stricken have not only used to bring happiness to the rest of humanity but also the solidarity of creativity and euphoria?

I think it does but there are many things that bring people together. The question is, does it make them feel good, you know what I mean? There are many things that people do when joining together. The human race is not totally, fully disgusting. There’s some greatness in people, even the disgusting ones, ya know?

But weed does tend to put the cap on it, for me, and it helps me accept who I am, and also accept other people and their kind of mentality. For me, I’m then able to see them and understand them, even if I’m like, “Hell no, I’m not doing that what they’re doing, but I can understand it.”

You tend to meet a lot of people just by passing a blunt around in various situations. For that reason among others, pot is a great substance to use for socialization and building solidarity. 

In Jamaica, how is cannabis farming and sales going?

The original farmers are getting left out and it’s almost turned into a big conglomerate, which can be good but also bad. The farmers being left out is leading to us—the land of ganja—having a ganja problem. Perhaps this is because more people are buying it, but now we don’t have enough weed to go around, making the situation kind of weird at the moment. 

Can you tell us more about the edibles we heard you enjoy indulging in?

I’m always a positive person. I want that to continue in my positive ways—like for me, a positive way of the growth of the whole industry is creating more healthy edibles. I spent five years eating edibles alone and there’s a lot of sugar in them. If I had a diabetes problem, then that would have caused a worse problem…. and if I had continued, I might have ended up with diabetes! I’ve been trying to be the change and think of new ways to make edibles, healthier options and stuff like that. I hope that positive progression in those directions comes to life soon.

Do you make your own edibles or buy them pre-made?

I make them. I use coconut oil—although I used to use olive oil. I basically put some herb and oil in a frying pan at the lowest heat. The process decarboxylates itself like that, activating the THC and CBD. Then I drain the finished oil out and use that in a salad or sometimes on top of my toast. I use my oil in ginger tea, too, you know what I mean? It’s a good hit for a decent amount of hours. 

I’ve made cannaoil in the same way you’d make tea, too. I boil the flower in a hot cup of tea. Many people are like, you know, “How come the bud doesn’t have any oil? There’s no oil in the water and THC isn’t water soluble?” And I’m like, “Bro, I don’t know, but when I heat it up this way and I drink it that way, it gets me high.”

After only eating edibles for five years, I got back into smoking when my son was born with a celebratory spliff. Then the same thing happened last year when this pandemic hit—I stopped smoking. I was only ingesting my oil, but then Christmas time came and I was like, “Light up!”

Do you have any final words you would like to share with us?

Yeah. I think that we need better, more healthy edibles. There was a point when there were so many edibles on the street, and the dispensary-made ones were exactly on point. So you knew what you were working with—‘like, oh, this is 25 mgs or this is 100 mgs.’

When they’re made by the cannabis industry, the outcome is different than someone who is cooking edibles in a kitchen for you. There is no way to know the exact dose. Nonetheless, I maintained a normal pattern of work and life without going ‘zonk, oh man, this is too strong for me.’ I grew to learn how much I was ingesting, but I knew my homemade edibles weren’t healthy. Too much sugar, too much salt. I’m saying, we can turn edibles into a healthier medicine.

So, if the industry wants to holler at me and hear my ideas about these things, I’d love to go into that part of the business with y’all. There are people who need cannabis as medicine and some of them can’t smoke or consume large quantities of sugar on a consistent basis. 

Sean Paul’s new album, “Live N Livin,” drops on March 12th, 2021. Check out the latest happenings of his career on his official website, allseanpaul.com, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter, @duttypaul

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