The Legacy of Peter Tosh

On the warm New Jersey night of June 2013, Jawara McIntosh was pulled to the side of the road in a routine traffic stop. After roughly 65 kilograms of cannabis was found in McIntosh's car, Jawara was promptly arrested, processed, and put in jail. After multiple discussions with lawyers and family, he pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute. Jawara was sentenced to one year in prison and, while serving his sentence, was beaten into a coma by a Bergen County inmate. He never recovered. Jawara had no past involvement with the criminal justice system, had a family, and was still urged to accept a guilty plea after surrendering himself to the state of New Jersey. Jawara is just one of the many examples of a nonviolent offender being converted into a violent offender at the hands of the American prison-industrial complex.
Jawara McIntosh is the son of Peter Tosh, one of the greatest reggae musicians of all-time. Whether touring the world with Bob Marley or else introducing reggae to famous musicians like Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones, Tosh is a musician’s musician and the Jamaican vocalist and guitarist who didn’t smile for the press. His albums include Mystic Man, Mama Africa, Legalize It and Equal Rights. He famously covered Johnny B. Goode and co-wrote Get Up, Stand Up, with Bob Marley. He called his live album, recorded in Boston in 1976, Live & Dangerous. Stepping Razor is one of his most famous songs.
Peter Tosh was a talented artist, played many instruments and was a good vocalist, which influenced Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley—they all played various instruments,” says Jay Douglas, a Canadian reggae artist who performed with Peter Tosh in the 80s. “We sure could use some more spiritual vibes in the reggae music of today—Jah bless the Prophet Mr. Peter Tosh.
The daughter of reggae legend Peter Tosh and sister of cannabis activist Jawara McIntosh, Niambe McIntosh, is Peter Tosh’s 25-year-old daughter reviving his legacy. Sheleft her prestigious position in a Massachusetts engineering firm to undertake a path dedicated to minimizing the impact of the war on drugs and making stories such as her brother's a thing of the past. I got the chance to sit down with Niambe after a family trip to Jamaica. She told me what she's trying to achieve with her movement and fight against the War on Drugs. "When you take people out of a community, they could be the brightness of that community, a member that had the biggest personality, and to take him out of the community does major harm," she said. "Not only do I not have a brother, my mother doesn't have a son and his four children don't have a father."

To quell the pain of the nonviolent offenders caught up in the penitentiary system, Niambe has become affiliated with multiple nonprofits aimed at social marijuana justice. Niambe's involvement with minorities for Medical Marijuana and The Last Prisoner Project has proved her dedication to the cause. She has become CEO of The Peter Tosh Foundation and the Justice for Jawara project. On top of all her humanitarian ventures, Niambe McIntosh is the latest in the game of legal marijuana and could be at the spearpoint of starting a revolutionary cannabis movement with her new cannabis company Seen Cannabis.

Coming from years of planning, research, and collaboration, and the bluebeat sounds of Peter Tosh, Seen Cannabis is the latest in celebrity-endorsed legal cannabis and is coming into the market with a beautiful twist. Seen Cannabis will be donating a percentage of all of their net proceeds to foundations that liberate those affected by the war on drugs.
"We have five initiatives amongst the foundation, but particularly they'll be geared around the Justice for Jawar initiative, named after my brother, and focus on situations like his and overall criminal justice reform," she says. Her father, of course, released the album Legalize It in 1976 and was amongst the most politically active of Jamaica’s reggae performers.
According to his daughter, Seen Cannabis carries on her father’s ideals. "We've partnered with the Legalize It initiative, which is geared at not only educating people about the medicinal, spiritual and uplifting benefits of cannabis, but also making sure that those who have been affected by the war on drugs have the opportunity to access the industry," she says. “The time has come for cannabis to finally be legal, in some places, with more in the works. But it isn’t fair unless everyone profits from this new industry.”
With the War on Drugs responsible for the incarceration of roughly 200,000 non-violent offenders in America alone, Seen Cannabis aims to release nonviolent offenders from prison and expunge their records. “It’s only right,” she says. “These people gave up their freedom and paid the ultimate cost for a fight that we all knew was just and right. They should be part of the legalization movement, and profit from the sale of cannabis.”
To properly move forward with legalization and regulation—and year three of legalization in Canada—many activists believe that we must take the initiative to give everyone who has been incarcerated for possession of cannabis the liberty and justice they deserve. With less than 400 Canadian prisoners receiving pardons for their cannabis crimes since legalization, we need to act with urgency, Niambe says. Seen, as a brand, wants to be the pioneers in a movement paying tribute to those who have gambled with their freedoms in the grey market era of cannabis. There’s an estimated 150,000 Canadians with prohibition-era cannabis criminal records; Seen Cannabis has an important job to do.
“If you Google Peter Tosh, you will see him about 90% of the time with a spliff in his hand,” says Niambe. “I've heard stories where he would smoke spliffs on planes back when people smoked cigarettes on planes.” Tosh taught Bob Marley how to play guitar. Later on, after the label started favouring Bob Marley, Tosh took to starting his solo career, where he focussed on a more political angle of reggae music promoting the awareness of cannabis legalization, Black rights issues, and corruption in the Jamaican political system. Tosh was ultimately assassinated for his beliefs. “Bob Marley gets a lot of credit, and deservedly, but he was very peaceful. Peter Tosh is overlooked,” his daughter says. “You see the same thing with Martin Luther King versus Malcolm X, where Malcolm X definitely had a more offensive view towards Western minds and some people couldn't accept that.”
The question is, how do we inform the general public of the pioneers who risked life and limb for us to enjoy the sacrament of cannabis without legal intervention? When asked about where she would like to see the industry progress, Niambe pondered the question. "When we think about cannabis, and its origins, when it comes to the culture of Rastafari, I would like it to be recognized as a sacrament because of its ability to really allow people to connect with a higher power and be more spiritually guided,” she says. Niambe's answer may seem logical; however, if this is the case, why has the industry taken so long to respond? Niambe is unequivocal in her views. "There can be no legalization until everyone who is incarcerated is free," she says. "It's too late for my family. But I'm glad that other families will not have to go through what my family has gone through.”
Seen Cannabis looks to help the illicit market take part of the legal system. To do that, cannabis pioneers shouldn’t have to suffer like her brother. Legalization has done wonders for Canada, with the arrests for cannabis convictions being reduced from over 26,000 in 2018 to less than 500 in 2019. But there’s still work to be done.
We need to give those pioneering individuals their freedoms back,” says Niambe. “I'm always a proponent of progress—even if it's a little late for my family. I am always fighting for humanity