Jamaican “Murder Music” Star Gets Ten Year Sentence

Jim Burroway

June 23rd, 2011

Buju Banton, at the time of his arrest.

Jamaican dance-hall and “murder music” star Buju Banton was sentenced to ten years in prison today for his role in a large cocaine trafficking deal in 2009. The sentence is the lowest that is legally allowed for the charge against him. According to Banton’s attorney, David Markus, Banton could be out in six years due to time already served and credits for good behavior.

Banton was convicted in February of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and using a telephone to facilitate a drug trafficking offense. An earlier trial last year ended in a hung jury.

Banton, who won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album for his latest release “Before the Dawn” in February, is immensely popular in Jamaica. His 1992  single, “Boom Bye Bye” calls for gay people to be shot in the head with automatic weapons, have acid poured on them, and burned “like an old tire wheel.” British LGBT Activist Peter Tatchel called the song “probably the most murderous incitement recorded by any singer anywhere in the world.” In 2007 Banton was among a number of reggae artists who signed the Reggae Compassionate Act, promising to refrain from performing homophobic songs or making homophobic statements. He later deniedsigning the pact, and he has performed “Boom Bye Bye” since renouncing the agreement. His 2009 U.S. tour was marked with protests and concert cancellations. During that tour, Banton asserted that there would be “no end to the war between me and gays.”

Regan DuCasse

June 23rd, 2011

I have had some pretty serious arguments with people over the overcrowding issues in prisons or what defines dangerous or non violent crimes.

Sometimes the ignorance of people regarding this subject is similar to arguments over the definition of homosexuality.

For those who think that people do serious time over ‘minor drug’ charges are exceptionally naive and are compartmentalizing OTHER exponential crimes attached to drug activity.
I see that no one is crying over this guy serving serious time because he creates music that incites violence against gay people.
Even though he himself never picked up a gun against someone gay right?

Make no mistake, the kind of sociopathic mentality that takes no care of using drugs or distributing them into a community, WILL display no concern for the violence that comes with it. Drug us, after all, IS a choice one makes and risking prison is part of that literal ‘devil may care’ attitude that frustrates those charged with identifying and containing this problem.

A young actor I’ve always like recently got convicted for having a huge amount of Oxy for distribution. He lives in my area of the Valley of N. Hollywood, CA.
I have no pity for this guy.

As for those who think ‘non violent’ criminals don’t deserve to be severely punished.
Would you feel that way if they introduced your kid to drugs…or stole your car?

Sociopaths don’t care about your compassion for them, indeed they are poised to manipulate it. That’s what they do.
Some people learn their lesson after a few offenses that don’t result in a felony.
And others never do.
A person is always given LOTS of opportunity to not engage in criminal behavior…or essentially NEVER to start in the first place.

Buju boy is going away for a while, and goody.
I’d love to hear someone defend that he doesn’t deserve this jail time because he’s ‘non violent’ and it’s only drugs after all.

Priya Lynn

June 23rd, 2011

I love you Regan, but I disagree with you on this. People have a moral, if not a legal right to do whatever they want with their bodies and if they want to use drugs its not the state’s place to tell them they can’t.

When a drug dealer and a drug purchaser complete a transaction both are often happy with the outcome and this is a victimless “crime”. Now many will then jump in and say drugs are associate with all other types of crime from theft to murder, etc. That’s true, but those things are crimes themselves and if they are committed they should be prosecuted, but not the victimless crime itself. People sometimes steal and murder to get money to buy food and shelter, just because money is associate with crime that’s not a good reason to make it illegal for people to own money and trade it for goods and service.

Making drugs illegal is largely responsible for creating the criminal activity associate with it. When drugs are illegal and people have disputes over drugs they can’t resort to the courts to solve their differences, they have no other choice other than guns and violence. Because drugs are illegal the price of drugs is far higher than it would be if it was a legally traded substance like alcohol thus forcing people to steal to pay prices that are often higher than the pice of gold per ounce. If the government was selling drugs at a reasonable price it would drive all of the criminal organizations out of the recreational drug business.

It’s no different than the time of alcohol prohibition, the demand didn’t go away and organized crime stepped in to meet the demand and the huge profits funded criminal enterprises. It was prohibition that helped establish and grow major crime syndicates.

If drugs were legal it would take the huge profits away from gangs and organized crime thus depriving of almost all the money they use to further their criminal enterprises. That money would then go to the government instead through taxes and would further save huge amounts of money as around half of all law enforcement expenditures are for the failed war on drugs.

All that money taken from illegal organizations and given to the government could then be used for anti-drug education and treatment programs, treatment programs which hard core adicts are now discouraged from getting involved in because they are now law-breakers.

You ask “As for those who think ‘non violent’ criminals don’t deserve to be severely punished.
Would you feel that way if they introduced your kid to drugs…or stole your car?”.

Two entirely different things, one “crime” doesn’t have a victim, the other one does. As it stands now there is no motive for drug dealers not to sell to children, school children often say drugs are easier to get than alcohol. If drugs were legalized and regulated there would be better success at keeping them out of the hands of children as the dealers would be regulated and criminal organizations that don’t care who they sell to couldn’t compete with the government dealers and wouldn’t be selling drugs to underage people.

No I wouldn’t want someone selling drugs to my child/teenager, just as I wouldn’t want them selling alcohol or cigarettes to them. However, once they are 21 its not my business to tell my children not to do drugs/alcohol/cigarettes

So, although I’m not shedding any tears over Banton spending time in jail I have to say on principle his conviction is an injustice.

Priya Lynn

June 23rd, 2011

I forgot to add, another huge cost savings that would be had by legalizing drugs is the huge cost of imprisoning people for drug “crimes”. If I remember correctly about half of all prison inmates are in prison for non-violent drug offenses. The money spent on this is a waste that once again could be used for ant-drug education, treatment and any number of other worthy causes.

Regan DuCasse

June 23rd, 2011

I appreciate you taking the time to make your point. And what happens to those who commit what are considered a minor issue of a transaction of a small amount of drugs, AREN’T incarcerated right away. They are given probation, fines, community service and other options other than serving in prison.

It’s what happens when someone is under the influence that finally gets them in stir for a long time. Major drug dealing that involves weapons and wide distribution. DUI’s, violence and assaults.
The worst results are child neglect and abuse. Children with drugs in their systems, houses that are filthy and the children are starving and without proper attention.

My own cousin threw two very young (ages 2 and 3 yrs old) children from a second story window of a housing project while she was getting high with the father of the children.
She’s been to jail several times. I warned her years before that the ghetto trash she hung out with, would get her in trouble and would leave her to the wolves if any real trouble started. And a drug dealer she knew got riddled with 19 bullets on a night she was lucky she hadn’t been in the same room with him.

Drugs are not without victims. They are not illegal to inconvenience someone and make profits for prisons.
Drugs make people lazy, crazy, stupid, violent, incompetent, neglectful and impossible to live with. Eventually, treating addiction becomes expensive and rehab impossible in some quarters because the resources to get the monkey off one’s back might not always be available.

The Mission district, where most of the homeless are concentrated is very near where the police headquarters is. Drugs are mostly the reason why so many people are down there with nowhere to do. They were either rendered incapable of self reliance by drugs, or other problems were exacerbated by them. And the families that are there with children, can also attest to drug problems being a part of being on the edge most of the time.

Casual use is not to be encouraged, nor ignored as something that’s only a problem for ‘other people’.
And young people shouldn’t be told such a thing or that alcohol is worse.
Eventually it’s a problem for everyone and we can’t afford it, whether drugs were legal or not.

Priya Lynn

June 23rd, 2011

Regan, when I hear this conversation people often bring up child neglect, murder, weapons, DUI’s and so on and say those are the reasons why drugs should be illegal. The thing is all those things are illegal and if people are doing them they should be punished for that, not for the harmless act of doing as they will with their bodies.

The trouble with, for example saying drugs should be illegal because people on drugs steal, that isn’t true in all cases. Some drug users, just like some alcohol users are restrained, controled, gainfully employed and use money attained through legal means to get their drugs. The law now basically says “We don’t care if you didn’t steal to get your drugs we’re going to treat you as though you did”. The attitude is that we won’t differntiate between drug users who harm others and drug users who do not – all are assumed guilty without evidence. You say “Drugs make people lazy, crazy, stupid, violent, incompetent, neglectful and impossible to live with.”. That’s true in some cases, but certainly not all. Once again, we can’t have drug policy that treats all drug uses as guilty of negative behavior and when people do have negative behavior we should punish that, not an act that is harmless in itself.

One can’t condone the legality of alcohol and then say drugs should be illegal – they are essentially the same thing.

Just as alcohol prohibition created a crime problem by providing huge profits to criminal organizations so does drug prohibition. People can point to child neglect, weapons, assaults and murders and say those are reasons to prohibit drugs, but we do prohibit drugs and those things are still going on – drug prohibition has not helped, its made matters worse by funding gangs and criminal organizations. Legalizing drugs would have several benefits.

1) vast reductions in the cost of law enforcement and imprisonment

2) Vast increases in tax revenues to the government.

3) Defunding criminal organizations

4) Crime reductions because drug disputes can be resolved through the legal system rather than leaving people to use guns and violence to settle disputes

5) Crime reductions because the cost of drugs is no longer equivalent to the price of gold thus reducing the need to steal to support drug habits.

6) Crime reductions because all those government cost savings/revenue boosts can be used to fund anti-drug education and treatment programs that reduce drug use overall.

We need to look at drugs from a harm reduction viewpoint. There will always be harm associate with alcohol and drugs, the question is which approach reduces overall harm? We’ve seen repeatedly the prohibition aproach doesn’t work, its time to stop waisting huge resources on a failed effort and try a different approach.

David Malcolm

June 23rd, 2011

Priya, the problem is that no one lives apart from the overall system which is society. Now, while I’m all for individual rights and freedoms, I can’t condone the marketing of substances that are known to be terribly harmful to people.

The problem is that you keep comparing drug use of illegal drugs, to drug use of legal drugs. The fact is, just about nobody in their right mind will argue that alcohol has a terribly positive effect on people. Sorry, nobody who’s not a complete and utter moron.

Sure there’s a lot of twenty something bar stars, and thirty somethings who haven’t realized how pathetic they are for still trying to be bar stars, who think booze and smoking are just awesome. But everyone else can see the negative side affects of those substances.

Alcohol causes liver damage, smoking causes cancer, the fact is that the only reason these two substances aren’t completely outlawed is because they have a strong powerful user base. Do you really want to see Cocaine and Meth with similarly sized user bases? Can you imagine how many new addicts would be created in the months after they legalized it, but before they made laws against every single possible form of advertising?

Yes, let’s let people be responsible for what goes into their own body, that’s a great idea. The first step is to find responsible people. Since we don’t have any, let’s keep locking away people like Buju.

Priya Lynn

June 23rd, 2011

David I never said anyone lives apart from society. You say you can’t condone the marketing of substances that are known to be terribly harmful to people yet you apparently condone the marketing of alcohol and tobacco which can be terribly harmful to people.

There is nothing saying making a substance legal is going to increase its usage. I’ve known a lot of people who both used and avoided drugs and none of them made that choice based upon the legality of the substance.

You say the only reason alcohol and cigarettes aren’t outlawed is because they have strong powerful user base. The base of marijuana users is at least as big as either of those, so by your logic it should be legal. Implicit in your justification for those drugs is that making them illegal won’t make them go away. By the same token, making cocaine and crystal meth illegal hasn’t made them go away.

You said “Can you imagine how many new addicts would be created in the months after they legalized it, but before they made laws against every single possible form of advertising?”.

If you think that’s the issue then what would be wrong with making every form of advertising illegal at the same time as making the drugs legal?

I watched a Republican presidential candidate who favours the legalization of drugs get asked about all the new addicts that would be created if drugs were legalized. He said, and I agree, “I don’t believe there would be a whole bunch of new addicts. Who in this room would start using heroin if it were legalized”. Not one amongst the thousands said they would.

Apparently you didn’t read too closely what I wrote. The billions saved in law enforcement and imprisonment and the billions the government would get in revenue could be used to fund vast anti-drug programs and rehabilitation. With that kind of social emphasis drug use would be likely to decline, not increase. What addict is going to now voluntarily enter treatment when they are breaking the law? Virtually none. Wheras is an addict wasn’t in danger of imprisonment they’d be more likely to give treatment a try.

Ultimately this has to be about harm reduction and even if legalization did result in more law abiding addicts that would certainly be a worthwhile tradeoff to take billions from criminal organizations and give it to government to ameliorate the negative effects of drug use, negative effects which are now much worse because of prohibition.

Priya Lynn

June 23rd, 2011

Another thing, David: We own our bodies, we have a right to do what is terribly harmful to it (including suicide).

Having said that, many drugs are certainly less harmful than alcohol, marijuana in particular. And harm is directly correlated with the amount used. Just as there are people who have an occaisional glass of wine and people who are falling down drunk in the gutter there are moderate and excessive drug users. We don’t look at the worst examples of a group and say we’re going to assume all members of the group are just as bad and guilty without evidence. That’s what the anti-gays do, they take the worst behaving gays and claim what is true for them is true for all gays. Don’t fall into the same lie with alcohol and drugs.

I’m done on this thread, anyone who disagrees needs to re-read what I’ve written and think about it a little more deeply.


June 23rd, 2011

Very sad to see that Danny Glover advocated on his behalf as a character witness:

Danny Glover, who called Banton a “role model, philanthropist and spiritual leader in the community.”

Priya/Regan, had these drugs hit the street, what would you say to the families of those innocents killed in the cross-fire that goes along with major drug distribution rings?

Priya Lynn

June 23rd, 2011

Matt, if drugs were legal the gangs and criminal organizations that sell them would be defunded and forced out of business and no one would be killed in cross-fire that goes along with the prohibition of drugs. What do you say to the innocents who are killed by your insistence on drug prohibition which results in this cross-fire?

And what do you say to the innocents who are killed by drunk drivers? Do you advocate for outlawing alcohol? I seriously doubt it so spare me your faux concern for innocents. Don’t give me that tired old line that alcohol can’t be banned because its got a large powerful base of users. It has been banned despite that, it could be done again, but people like you are far to hypocritical to have any consistency in your aproach to alcohol and drugs.

There’s a reason why I told you to reread my previous comments – you’re missing what should be painfully obvious:

I’ve heard estimates that the drug trade is worth at least 10 times the money spent on fighting it. Legalizing drugs will save the government huge costs in law enforcement and prisons. It will result in several times more billions being taken from gangs and criminal organizations and being given to the government which will severely limit the ability of organizations to buy guns/commit crimes.

Drug prohibition greatly increases crime. Ask yourself what you would say to the innocents who are getting killed in the crossfire due solely to your desire to prohibit drugs. I don’t have to answer that question because a helluva lot fewer people will die because of drugs due to my aproach than will die due to yours.

Its not the governments place to treat us like children and say “If I think you’re harming yourself I’m going to punish you.”. Ask yourself how much sense that makes: In order to prevent individuals from harming themselves with drugs you sentence them to up to life in prison as though that in itself is somehow not harmful to the individual. Just as alcohol prohibition did, drug prohibition increases the harm to individuals and society. Let’s stop shooting ourselves in the foot and stop this failed idiotic war on drugs.

Priya Lynn

June 23rd, 2011

I said ” It will result in several times more billions being taken from gangs and criminal organizations and being given to the government which will severely limit the ability of organizations to buy guns/commit crimes.”

That should have been “severely limi the ability of such criminal organizations to to buy guns/commit crimes.

Regan DuCasse

June 24th, 2011

Hi Priya, I know you took a lot of time to answer me and I think you’re one of the most intelligent people I know. I LOVE talking with you on the phone.

The thing about gangs, is they aren’t a ONE contraband type situation. Gangs engage in EVERYTHING that is off the grid.
Drugs are not their only option, nor only enterprise, so no…they wouldn’t be defunded or lose their influence on recruitment or the danger they present to neighborhoods.
Just as those who typically get high with marijuana, ALSO drink alcohol too.

You say people SHOULD be able to do what they want with THEIR bodies.
Yet these are people who, when this catches up with them, expect the burden of their health care costs and loss of jobs or relationships to be borne by the public. There was the mention of rehab and other forms of intervention, which ALSO are usually borne by the public.

So these issues of an individual body, doesn’t STAY that way eventually.
Usually young people are not confronted with these consequences and their typical result. Most of these things are abstract, unless they’ve grown up in homes with such problems.
Sometimes they believe it’s YEARS before there are any ill effects. That is really the problem.
Just as how gangs or terrorists profit from drug use is an abstraction in the same way.

Gangs smuggle people, weapons, manufacture fraudulent documents, launder money, import prostitution and slave labor.
Drugs are just a portion of their profit base.
Remember where I work. Please trust me when I say that legalizing drugs won’t help anything. It really won’t.

Regan DuCasse

June 24th, 2011

I shouldn’t have to say that drug use effects ALL the same way.
But it doesn’t take many people under the influence to cause MAJOR problems. And it’s a common enough problem to make it unacceptable over all.

I recently saw an article regarding some tainted cocaine that is causing skin eating infections in people.
Wonder how much it costs for treating these problems.
There are addicts claiming disability and other public services, even after they are no longer using.
And this isn’t ‘a few’ who have a problem, it’s hundreds of thousands. If not millions…


June 24th, 2011

Here’s something no one seems to want to talk about. He was convicted of criminal activity. He KNEW it was illegal. He did it anyway – he got caught. He is now punished for breaking a law he was aware of.

This was HIS CHOICE. He was not forced by economic factors – unless he had made other unfortunate choices before.

He was/is a “star”. He remained very popular, even after the whole anti-gay murder thing.

Why indulge in illegal activity? If you want to change those laws — use your money and power to work toward that end.

What does the ultimate outcome of changing drug laws have to do with Mr. Banton’s conviction?

He took his chance — he lost. Given the charges, 10 years is not that bad.

As far as his anti-gay stance is concerned, prison might well change him. He well might end up someones “boyfriend”, or might end up having a “boyfriend”. In any case, his conviction has nothing to do with his advocacy of gay murder.

Then again, perhaps some gay person will not be killed simply because he will not be out and about telling folks to kill other HUMAN BEINGS.

Donny D.

June 24th, 2011

Banton blamed his money problems on those evil gay activists, and proceeded to get involved with dealing in a large amount of cocaine. He seems to feel entitled to that money, rather than scaling down his spending. Entitled to push his anti-gay hatred. Just entitled generally. I can’t say I’m sorry to see him get sent up for this.

I don’t see users of illegal drugs as being equivalent to dealers. And I don’t see a small-time street dealer as equivalent to someone like Buju Banton. They shouldn’t be treated similarly under the law.

The category “drugs” is a conflation of unalike things, a logically fallacious aggregation of apples and oranges. Illegal heroin, Oxycontin, Dilaudid, cocaine, crack and methedrine aren’t eqivalent to marijuana or hashish in the harm they do. These drugs occupy differing major drug categories and do far different things to their users. I don’t think they should be treated similarly under the law.

But as to Banton, he’s a little creep with a bad attitude, and that attitude has finally gotten him consequences that stopped him cold. He may not learn a single positive lesson from this experience, but I agree with the poster who said it will be beneficial in and of itself to have him out of the way for the next 5-10 years.


June 24th, 2011

hate to admit it, but i bought most of his cd’s back in the ninties… like most of my peers, i loved his music but barely had a clue what his songs were about – prepubescent teens who hadnt the slightest idea what sexuality was about throwing around jamaican patois lyrics like we were so cool… one of the songs on that boom bye bye cd had a weird word in it – we used that word as code for copying homework lol! innocent guilt? guilty innocence?

i hope his hate and intolerance rot in jail.

Maurice Lacunza

June 24th, 2011

Priya Lynn is right. We don’t outlaw eating because someone robbed a farmer of his tractor. People steal and sell those stolen goods sometimes for drugs and sometimes for food. We don’t outlaw food, so why are we outlawing drugs?

It truly is a victimless crime if you think about from a different point of view. Dealer is happy. User is happy. Look at the Big Pharm. They make oxy pills and sell them. We don’t stop making oxy because someone broke into a pharmacy.

So, I say that Priya is right.

Regan DuCasse

June 24th, 2011

Maurice, I wish you were kidding.
Food is essential to LIFE. You’d die without food.

You don’t die from NOT getting high and using drugs a RECREATION.
Therefore, using drugs for that purpose is NON ESSENTIAL, and also it’s effects are direct and NEGATIVE because of who ELSE is either exposed to marijuana in the presence of a user, or their behavior while stoned.

It’s STILL risky for other reasons when users don’t confine themselves away from their jobs, or relationships or responsibilities while high.
Counting on the honor system of people who DO take risks regardless, is naive at best, and stupid at worst.

Marijuana isn’t a healthy pursuit, nor should young people be told it’s harmless and ONLY affects them. The conditions under which that would be true, are rather difficult to actually accomplish.
As with anything else, there are millions of people whose brain chemistry will make them addicted. Taking risks, especially in doing something illegal, is part of a personality issue, not just having the drugs available legally.
OTHER factors MUST be in place, and it’s a good bet, regular users won’t like THAT end of accountability.

Such as random tests, admitting such usage to potential or current employers and expecting scrutiny when it comes to the welfare of their children or others they are responsible for.

Food is obtainable through charity, and open regular mission halls and food banks for free. Food IS necessary, marijuana is not, for a healthy person.

The real question is, why would a person go out of their way to get high, get others high with them, at the expense of even a casual visit and interaction with friends?

I would think a problem is already there, that’s only hidden or exacerbated by the desire to get high to the extent of risking freedom and other things.

Timothy Kincaid

June 24th, 2011

In general, I think the best policy is that each person be allowed the freedom to determine for themselves:

1. what is good (or bad) for them
2. what risks are worth assuming
3. what is “healthy”

I really don’t have any business deciding those things for anyone else. If a musician wants to shoot heroin, I may think that this is all so very very awful for him. He may think that it gives him the creativity needed to succeed.

It doesn’t matter if I’m right. Let me repeat that: It doesn’t matter if I’m right. Because it’s his life and it should be his decision.

If we go down the road of deciding for others what is in the best interest of others then we end up being Bill Donohue pointing at AIDS stats and announcing that homosexuality should be banned because it is an unhealthy lifestyle.

Jim Burroway

June 24th, 2011

I agree with Timothy. Just about every arguement here can also be applied to alcohol. We know how disasterous prohibition turned out to be, and it only takes a little bit of paying attention that what we saw under that war on alcohol we are seeing again with the so-called war on drugs.

As for the distinction between drugs and alcohol (which, of course, is a drug), it is purely a false one. I see no difference. And so my position can be summed up this way: I’ll give up my margarita only when they pry the glass from my cold dead hands.


June 24th, 2011

i agree with timothy and jim… even when it comes to substances that are known to be highly addictive and their continued use is know to lead to or contribute to mental illness, antisocial or criminal behavior. i think that adults should be free to “poison” themselves, but not at the expense of others… so, once that line is crossed and “self-poisoned” individuals become responsible for domestic violence, theft etc… then they must be held accountable for inconveniencing others, not for “poisoning” themselves. there are too many people – including law enforcement officers, lawyers, doctors, professors, politicians and other responsible adults – who regularly indulge in “self-poisoning” without ever crossing that line (they don’t inconvenience others) for us to blindly fault the substance itself or its use. just my opinion. that said, i wouldn’t encourage anybody i care about to regularly indulge in “self-poisoning” …i’d actually discourage them from doing so, but i don’t see why they should face legal penalties if they are not inconveniencing others. then again, there’s the bigger picture… the corruption and deaths involved in making those substances available – yes, such incidents aren’t always involved in making those substances available, and a lot of times it happens because the substances are illegal and aren’t regulated… *sigh* …it’s complicated.

Priya Lynn

July 11th, 2011

10 years ago Portugal adopted a harm reduction approach to illegal drugs and decriminalized drug use. The results there have been in keeping with what I’ve been saying and in contradiction to the conventional “wisdom” on prohibiting recreational drugs.

“The number of addicts considered problematic has fallen by half since the early 90’s. Drug use statistics in Portugal are generally “below the European average and much lower than its only European neighbour, Spain,” the report also said.

Portugal’s holistic approach had also led to a “spectacular” reduction in the number of infections among intravenous users and a significant drop in drug-related crimes”.


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