Reggae and Ganja: History, Facts, and Top 5 Iconic Hits

Reggae music is extremely popular with cannabis users and enthusiasts all around the world. As a fellow cannabis user, there may be a time that you are enjoying smoking your weed while having some reggae tunes playing in the background. Does it cross your mind on why and how reggae and ganja have been associated with one another? This article will take your curiosities away! We will have an in-depth look at the history and facts about reggae and ganja! Also, there is a bonus of 5 amazing iconic reggae hits about ganja!

The History of Reggae Music

Let’s first start discussing the origins of the incredible reggae music. 

The musical genre of reggae originated in Jamaica in the 1960s. It was derived from the Jamaican phrase “rege-rege,” which translates into “rags” or “ragged clothing.” Reggae music is characterized and well-known for its unique tune, which involves skanking guitars, deep, leading bass lines, down-beat drums, complex offbeat rhythms, and lament-like chanting, and syncopated beats.


The inspiration for reggae music comes from different musical styles and genres but is heavily inspired by the Jamaican Mento. It is a kind of rural Jamaican folk music that is heavily based on African tradition and rhythms. It is also influenced by the Jamaican Ska music, rocksteady, jazz, rhythm and blues.

Reggae music is not just all about its unique beats and rhythms. It is also frequently linked with common themes that have grown over the years. At first, the earliest lyrics signify love, particularly romantic love between a man and a woman.

By the 1970s, reggae music had been heavily influenced by the Rastafarian movement. This is a Jamaican cultural movement that began in the 1930s. This movement is focused on promoting a natural lifestyle, a distinct relationship with God or “Jah,” and the use of cannabis for ceremonies. Most of the popular and successful reggae artists were committed to Rastafari, which includes Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Burning Spear, and many more.

Due to the Rastafari influence, from being centered about romantic love, reggae music has been about cosmic and spiritual love, the love for one another, and if God, or “Jah.” But it is not all about love. Reggae artists also used the music for political views, especially having themes of rebellion and revolution against the forces that obstruct the love they are singing about. These forces include government oppression, racism, extreme violence, and poverty. This is a response to what the reggae artists are witnessing in their community and their country and those who experienced these love-obstructing forces firsthand.

It was also during this decade that reggae music has begun to be acclaimed internationally. This was attributed to the release of the movie called “The Harder They Come,” starring Jimmy Cliff in which the movie is centered about socio-political views, and the soundtrack consists only of reggae hits. It has promptly spread attention and interest all over the world. This may have paved the way for the biggest and most well-known reggae legend Bob Marley, the name that first comes to mind when one talks about reggae and ganja.

Bob Marley was not only a reggae singer. He was also a committed Rastafarian and a political activist. He made songs that spoke up about the legalization of marijuana. Like Marley, several reggae artists such as Peter Tosh had used reggae music as a plea to legalize the weed. As time goes by, more and more artists have been incorporating ganja into their songs, which may have made reggae and ganja globally known to go well together.

It is not all about fun and games. Reggae music had also hit rock bottom. Even if reggae was turned into a popular genre, especially through the international fame of Bob Marley and his works, the popularity died down by the early 1990s. Other musical genres, including dancehall, have outshined reggae. There were many theories as to why this happened. This includes the death of Bob Marley in 1981, a general disinterest in Jamaican artists from international record labels, or the genre just simply met its fate. Whichever the reason is, reggae is not officially dead, and it shows today.

As you are continuing to read this article, reggae music is still enjoyed across the world. There have been reggae revival bands that emerged in various parts of the world like Fat Freddy’s Drop (New Zealand), Rebelution (US), Beenie Man (Jamaica), and many more. Especially by Bob Marley, classic hits are still celebrated by many people and not just by Rastafarians and cannabis users.

Reggae music has also been innovated with a whole new range of musical styles. It has been incorporated with other popular musical genres like hip-hop and rap. Some artists and bands chose to preserve the authentic and classic reggae known as the 1970s.

Now that you have learned about the history and facts about reggae and ganja, here is a bonus for you! The next part of the article introduces you to the Top 5 Iconic Reggae Hits About Ganja!

5 Iconic Reggae Hits About Ganja

Reggae and ganja have been associated with one another throughout history. Numerous reggae tunes emphasize ganja, and the list keeps on growing, especially with the influence of Bob Marley and other Rastafarian artists. Here are the top 5 hits about reggae and ganja that made our list:

Legalize It by Peter Tosh

This tune was released in the mid-1970s and has been a classic tokers anthem. By reading its title, you may already have an idea of what this tune is all about. Tosh created it as a response to his ongoing victimization by the Jamaican police. It was also aimed to be used as a political piece to appeal to the legalization of cannabis because of its medical benefits, which Tosh emphasized in these lyrics:

“Good for asthma
Good for tuberculosis
Even numara thrombosis”

The International Herb by Culture

This is another hit that promotes the love for cannabis worldwide, hence naming it The International Herb. Some of the places and countries mentioned in the song include Africa, England, Taiwan, and Colombia. 

It is a great song to add to your playlist, especially with these lines that talk about the link between reggae and ganja:

“I took a spliff this morning of the international herb, it make I feel so groovy man, it gives me inspiration in music man, so that is why I can’t refuse it man, my bredren nuh love it and I love it, man.”

Free Up the Weed by Lee “Scratch” Perry

Alongside Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Lee Perry is another artist that is known to be one of reggae’s most prominent producers and inventors. He is the man behind several reggae’s greatest hits, including this song, Free Up the Weed. This is another iconic hit that is about the plea to legalize the use of marijuana. It further relays the message to end the negative views and hate on weed but focus on learning about the good benefits it has to offer. Perry emphasizes this through the following lines:

“Some plant coffee, some plant tea
So why can’t I and I plant collie?
If you stray from the roots
You will never know the truth right now
Cause the war can’t solve no problem, love is the emblem
Instead of hate and malice, we should be sipping chalice
And giving praises to His Most High God Jah Rastafari.”

Ganja Smuggling by Eek-A-Mouse

This iconic hit from the 1980s focuses more on the realities of illegal ganja trafficking in Kingston’s ghettos. Through this song, Eek-A-Mouse relays his message about drug busts, harsh penalties, and strict regulation of cannabis in Jamaica, which probably comes as a surprise. Here are some lines from his hit song:

“Early, early Sunday morning
It was a big ganja smuggling, hey
Inna the mud me a pick collie bud
An’ me a load dem down in off the top, hey
One by one, load up the van, all of-a ganja it ram
Put it on a plane, the weed gon’ a Spain
Money jus’ a pour like rain
Me jus’ a mogel up the lane in a rolled gold chain, hey
Me an’ me girl named Jane.”

Easy Skanking by Bob Marley and the Wailers

Of course, a Bob Marley hit will be on this list and will be none other than Easy Skanking. It is the opening song of Bob Marley’s tenth album Kaya. The collection is about love, Rastafarian ideology, and of course, marijuana. Easy Skanking has been a part of the cannabis smoking routine for many stoners in which they light up when they heard Marley’s timeless and iconic line in the song that goes by “Excuse me while I light my spliff.”

Bob Marley also incorporated Rastafarian ideology in the song through the line “Herb for my wine.” It is a clear reference to Rastas’s practice to prefer ganja over alcohol as they tend to refrain from alcoholic drinks.


Now that you have read some information about the relationship between reggae and ganja, your curiosities may already be answered. The next time you take a spliff, play some reggae songs in the background to jam with a whole new weed smoking experience!