Does any country in the world have such a strong connection to marijuana as Jamaica?
The beautiful Caribbean nation has been linked with ganja for generations. In fact, the herb has been associated with Jamaica since the mid-19th century when East Indian workers brought cannabis seeds with them when they arrived on the island to work on the fields. The Rastafari movement then adopted its use in their religious ceremonies in the 1920s and so helped to popularize the plant. Today, it’s estimated that as many as 70% of all Jamaicans are regular users of cannabis sativa and cannabis indica.
The Most Famous Jamaican Cannabis Advocate
Of all of the famous advocates of cannabis use to hail from the island of Jamaica, there is one who stands out from the crowd. Bob Marley was not only a world famous musician, he was always well known around the globe for his use of cannabis and his support for its legalization.
Robert Nesta (or Bob) Marley was raised in Nine Mile before he and his mother moved to Trenchtown when he was 12 years old. It was there that he connected with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, the musicians who would join him in his early musical ventures. Bob Marley and the Wailers hit the Jamaican musical scene in the 1960s right about the time when Jamaica won its independence.
When Bob Marley became a Rastafarian in 1966, he became converted to cannabis too. He looked upon the holy herb as a “sacrament” and used it regularly. Although he did mention weed in his music, “Legalize It”, a song which has been popularly attributed to him wasn’t actually his work but was performed and written in 1979 by his friend Peter Tosh, 5 years after the break up of the band. Nevertheless, Marley was always clear on the subject of cannabis, believing that its use should be permitted without fear of legal repercussions.
The Jamaican Movement For Cannabis Legalization
The 1960s saw the beginning of the movement to legalize cannabis use in Jamaica, however progress was slow. Even though many people overseas were under the impression that marijuana was legal on the island, in fact, it wasn’t until half a century later that the first steps were taken to decriminalize weed. Bob Marley would have been glad to have been able to legally smoke a joint for his 70th birthday!
Back in the 1960s, the penalties for marijuana possession were severe, with mandatory minimum sentences of 18 months for possession and 5 years for dealing or cultivation. In 2015, however, all this came to an end when possession of up to 2oz of weed was decriminalized. Now that cannabis possession is only a ticketable infraction, people all over the island have been able to use freely without having to worry about any potential negative effect on their educational opportunities, employment prospects or freedom.
The Cannabis Licensing Authority in Jamaica
The CLA (or Cannabis Licensing Authority) was set up to regulate the distribution and cultivation of the herb. All businesses which cultivate, transport, process, sell, research or develop cannabis require a license from the CLA in order to carry out transactions. The first two licenses were issued back in 2017 and today there are 15 businesses in the marijuana sector which have been granted licenses to operate on the island. There are over 200 more licenses currently being processed and the businesses which are currently in operation are thriving.
As well as the CLA, the Ministry of Health also has a role to play in regulating cannabis products, strains and processing. They are also responsible for studying the scientific elements of the marijuana plant including the amount of THC and CBD in every strain. The Ministry is also offering training and certification for doctors who are keen to prescribe medicinal cannabis, although there is no legal requirement for practitioners to undergo such certification. The rules simply state that any doctor who intends to recommend the drug has to be registered with the national agency which licenses doctors, the Medical Council of Jamaica while any other health practitioner who intends to recommend the use of cannabis to patients must have received approval from the Ministry.
The Current State Of Play
Today, the reform to the Jamaican criminal justice system and the island’s cannabis law has been largely influenced by the state of play in America, where state after state have been slowly bringing in legalization of the plant, whether for medicinal or recreational use. The current Jamaican program allows for both THC and CBD dominant strains of cannabis to be used for therapeutic, scientific or medicinal purposes by patients who have a note from their physician or for licensed businesses. Residents are also permitted to grow up to 5 plants for their own use at home.
Foreign visitors to the island can easily access cannabis by obtaining approval from one of the local doctors, or if they have a valid recommendation for medicinal marijuana from their home country or state this is also valid when buying cannabis from one of the many legal Jamaican businesses. Whether you are a local or an overseas visitor, there are now plenty of opportunities on the island to obtain good quality weed and marijuana tourism is a burgeoning industry. Bud and breakfasts are just one of the many new business opportunities opening up for Jamaicans, while tours of marijuana farms and the opening of legal dispensaries are all proving popular.
These are exciting times for the Jamaican cannabis industry, as the CLA and government in general are in support of expanding and increasing the potential of the local medicinal cannabis opportunities. With the possibility on the horizon of even more land and money being freed up for investment in the cultivation of the herb, the future is looking bright for both locals and visitors to the island who are hopefully of obtaining some of the best quality ganja that Jamaica can offer.