The son of late reggae legend Peter Tosh, died in his Boston area home on July 17 at the age of 40. He had never fully recovered from a brutal 2017 beating in a New Jersey jail, where he was serving time on a cannabis charge.
McIntosh was serving a six-month sentence for marijuana possession when he was attacked by another inmate. As noted by the Jamaica Observer, the beating left him in a coma for over a year with full rehabilitation a long way off.
Following his death in July, McIntosh’s older brother Dave Tosh confirmed a month later to the Jamaica Gleaner that his brother’s remains had been cremated.
Peter Tosh, who co-founded the Wailers in 1963 along with Bob Marley, was murdered during an armed robbery of his home in Kingston in 1987. He was repeatedly targeted by police in Jamaica for his anti-establishment views and open use and advocacy of ganja and on one occasion in 1978 was badly roughed up.
Peace in the Afterlife
When Tosh 1 finally regained consciousness more than a year after the February 2017 jailhouse attack, he was sent home from the New Jersey hospital to Boston, where his mother, Melody Cunningham, and sister, Niambe Tosh, cared for him.
“He still has a lot of healing to do still, so I appreciate and know that Jamaica is praying hard for him,” she said from the stage. “The prayers are definitely working so please continue to send out your prayers for him because he is definitely missing from the stage tonight, but I know his spirit is with us at the same time. So please, continue to pray for my father’s youngest son.”
Reggae fans can now only pray for his peace in the afterlife.
Ganja Bust Becomes Death Sentence
In June 2013, McIntosh was arrested in Mahwah, NJ, for allegedly having more than 65 pounds of cannabis in the trunk of his rental car. Billboard reported that Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli said McIntosh had an arrest record that included charges for “disorderly persons offenses, assault, resisting arrest and promoting prostitution.” However, the New Jersey activist group Cannabis Patriots Unite refuted Batelli’s claims, calling them “slanderous and completely without merit.”
McIntosh spent more than six months in the Bergen County jail before pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute. He received a one-year sentence in August 2016. With six months left to serve, he was sent back to the county jail in January 2017. Just one month later, he suffered the debilitating attack.
New Jersey’s Hackensack Daily Voice reported that a fellow inmate — a New York resident from Queens awaiting trial in a home break-in named Kyrie Baum — was charged in the brutal beating. He faces a count of aggravated assault for the attack.
In February 2019, Melody Cunningham filed a federal lawsuit against Bergen County, alleging that authorities, including ex-sheriff Michael Saudino and a group of his officers, condoned a “fight club culture” in the Hackensack prison. The county is arguing that it does not oversee the jail and does not control the sheriff or his officers and therefore has no liability in the case.
NorthJersey.com reports that county counsel filed a brief with the court last July, stating: “The county does not operate the Bergen County jail, nor is the county the custodian of the prisoners there—instead, the sheriff is.”
Saudino, who was sheriff at the time of the attack, stepped down in September 2018 after secretly-recorded racist comments that he made were released to the public. On the tape, aired by radio station WNYC, Saudino speaks with members of his staff about then newly elected Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposal to legalize cannabis. He is heard saying that legalization would “let the blacks come in [presumably from New York], do whatever the f*** they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that, and don’t worry about it. You know, we’ll tie the hands of cops.”
A Voice for Cannabis Liberation
The Justice for Jawara page at the Peter Tosh website now states: “Jawara, you are a true soldier and we are blessed to have you as a son, a brother, a father, and a friend. Please hug and kiss our ancestors for the family. Your legacy lives on through your children, Jahzarah, Jeremaiah, Nazare, and Azariah.”
It also makes note of his commitment to cannabis activism: “Within the Rastafari faith, marijuana is a sacramental and sacred herb and has many known medicinal properties and values. Jawara has consistently used his own voice as an advocate for legalization, speaking at events like the Freedom Rally in Boston, Massachusetts, as well as in front of the New Jersey State House.”
Among his musical contributions as Tosh 1, McIntosh recorded a version of his father’s classic anthem of cannabis liberation, “Legalize It.”
As the Bergen Record recalled, Tosh 1 performed the song outside the New Jersey statehouse at an April 2014 rally calling on state and federal lawmakers to legalize or decriminalize cannabis.
Veteran High Times music editor Steve Bloom, who covered the passing of Jawara McIntosh for his website CelebStoner, also offered the following comments to Cannabis Now: “It’s terrible what happened to Jawara. Clearly, he was a victim of the War on Drugs. Marijuana possession with intent to distribute charge was the beginning of the end for him,” he said.
“Like his father Peter, Jawara was persecuted for his love of ganja. He should be alive and well today. Say his name: Jawara McIntosh.”
TELL US, should anyone be in jail for cannabis?