Stephen Marley — eight-time Grammy Award winner, son of reggae legend Bob Marley and longtime South Florida resident — has something he wants to say about the healing properties of herb.
“It’s a miracle plant,” said Marley, a longtime champion of marijuana usage and its legalization. “A lot of people are looking for miracles from the sky, but some miracles come from the earth.”
Marijuana — or ganja as it is known among Jamaicans — is revered in reggae circles and considered sacred by Rastafarians. They’ve been promoting the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant as far back as Bob Marley’s defiant championing and Peter Tosh’s promptly banned 1975 single, “Legalize It.”
Jamaica finally began decriminalizing up to two ounces of marijuana in 2015, joining a number of U.S. states that have adopted one form or another of legalization. Though the Caribbean nation still limits the number of cannabis plants Jamaicans can grow and carry without criminal penalties, Marley said he welcomes the moves. He also welcomes Florida’s medical marijuana law.
“Herb is a big part of our culture, and herb is a sacrament to me as well,” Marley said. “It’s a big part of us.”
So much so that with his 45th birthday rolling around on Thursday (April 20), which also happens to be 4/20 and National Weed Day, it was suggested he celebrate in a special, and different way.
Thus Kaya (another term for herb and the title of one of Bob Marley’s album) Fest was born. The concert, aimed at promoting the benefits of the cannabis plant, will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday April 22 at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre, 301 Biscayne Blvd., downtown Miami.
“We wanted to celebrate my birthday as well as support the cause,” Marley said. “The concert is really a platform to get people together who align with the plant, with the use of the plant.”
An all-star affair, the festival will feature Marley performing with brothers Ziggy, Damian, Julian and Ky-Mani for the first time in Miami in more than 20 years.
“When we touch the stage as the brothers it’s very unique because we do one set together,” he said. “Just the whole energy of us on stage at once is a great vibe. It’s a day for all of us, the people. On that day, we are one.”
The festival will also feature hip-hop stars Wyclef Jean and former Fugees bandmate Lauryn Hill, as well as reggae artist Sean Paul and Latin reggae band Cultura Profética.
All support the cause of educating people about the cannabis plant, Marley says.
“I’ve always been a supporter of medical marijuana,” Jean said. “I know what it does and how it helps a lot of people, including some members of my family who use it for medical purposes.”
Marley said the goal of Kaya Fest and the free symposium, “Education Before Recreation,” at noon Friday at HistoryMiami, 101 West Flagler St., is to help people become educated.
“People need to go and research this plant and learn it for themselves,” he said. “Go and learn about the benefits of this plant, and what it has been proven to do already.”
Those benefits include reducing seizures in children and helping cancer patients, he said.
And while marijuana remains a politically charged issue even in the Caribbean, where some nations are still considering following Jamaica’s footsteps, Marley quotes a common saying in the Caribbean: “Too much of anything is good for nothing.”
“You have to use it for your benefit, and everyone’s benefit is different,” he said. “The medicinal part of it has nothing to do with smoking. There’s so much more to this plant than getting high or smoking; that’s why we say, ‘education before recreation.’ ”
Not that he thinks there is anything wrong with “Feeling Alright.”
“Learn about the plant, respect the plant in whichever way you find fitting that you find this plant will benefit you,” Marley said. “Don’t use it as a fashion thing, or solely to get high. There is much more to the plant before that. That’s why we decided to take a serious note to this thing.”
A year ago, the Marley family’s company launched its own line of Bob Marley-branded marijuana, Marley Natural, on the west coast.
“It’s only available where it’s legal,” he said. “It’s doing well.”
So what makes a good herb?
“Good soil,” he said. “Good old natural organic soil and nutrients for the plant.”
If You Go
What: Kaya Fest
When: 1 p.m. Saturday, April 22
Where: Bayfront Park Amphitheatre, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Info at http://kayafestivals.com/