The Jamaica Situation

Posted on 20 October 2015 by 1


‘Legalize it, don’t criticise it’

Believe it or not, ganja, which comes from Sanskrit (meaning hemp or hemp resin), was present in Jamaica before the advent of Rastafarianism.

In the late 1800s, cannabis was brought into Jamaica by Indian servant workers following the rebellion of the African slaves.

Rastafarianism embraced this herb, calling it the “wisdom” weed. Then, along came Bob Marley who spread the word with other singers using Reggae music.

Pre-Rastafarian use of cannabis in Jamaica was generally in a tea for medical use or occasionally smoked with tobacco.

All was well until 1913, when the ‘ganja law’ was passed through the support of elite whites and the church. Considered a racist law by many that illustrates the oppression and injustice served out to the locals by the colonials in the most brutal way possible, the ganja law made the possession and use of cannabis illegal and punishable with jail time.

Many will not remember the United States' war against Jamaica's weed in the 1970s. Using troops, ships, planes and the CIA, they attempted to stop the flow of ganja out of Jamaica. They failed completely.

Things are different now. Recently, 100 years after the ganja law was passed, a Jamaica minister stated:

“We need to position ourselves to take advantage of the significant economic opportunities offered by this emerging industry,”

On what would have been Bob Marley’s 70th birthday, Jamaica officially legalised cannabis for religious, medical and scientific use. It also became acceptable to have up to two ounces of weed upon your person, and to grow weed at home. The allowance for home growers is up to five plants. This is massive progress and a huge step in slowing down the rampant criminalisation of Jamaica’s youth. It should be noted, however, that smoking in public remains illegal.

Jamaica is in the process of creating new regulations to deal with the production of cannabis for medical purposes, and a 16-member Cannabis Licensing Authority to regulate the industry in Jamaica has been announced.

More details in the Jamaica Observer

Medical Marijuana Patient?

Furthermore, Americans travelling to Jamaica, who hold medical marijuana cards, will be able to use them in Jamaica to buy fine ganja!

Recent partnerships with Colorado based company OpenVape are expected to drive thousands of extra tourists through Jamaica as well as create new jobs. Extra taxes generated will be put back into education and research.

Local physicians and businesses are being encouraged to get with the medical cannabis program.

A medical marijuana research and development operation will be built on the island by a Jamaican company in partnership with Colorado-based United Cannabis. The scheme is being run in cooperation with the University of the West Indies along with eight partner hospitals.

Jamaica is making small steps to prepare for the emerging legal cannabis market.

The UK Independent reports how the first legal medical cannabis plant was recently planted at the University of the West Indies.

"Now that they can actually cultivate for research purposes, we can expect that the outcomes of the endeavours will be more profound, and with the economic opportunities that this will bring, we see this as part of what, I hope, will be a transformational industry for Jamaica,"

Justice Minister Mark Golding stated.

‘Marley Natural’?

One does not get very far talking about weed without talking about Jamaica. And Bob Marley.

The Marley family have not been slow to jump on the cannabis bandwagon. Juggernaut may be a better description of recent developments if we are honest. They are launching several special strains of weed that are specifically from Jamaica that the man himself reportedly used to smoke!

Expected in the US in late 2015, this will thrust Bob’s face into the forefront of the legalisation movement and the cannabis industry. Could even Bob have foreseen this radical shift in public opinion and new energy for the plant? He probably did, but whether he would have expected to see his face on the doobies is another matter entirely.

The Marley family have teamed up with a company called Privateer Holdings who have issued the following statement:

“Bob Marley started to push for legalization more than 50 years ago. We're going to help him finish it” “It just seems natural that Daddy should be part of this conversation,” said Bob’s daughter in a recent NBC interview.

The grow space in Canada, however, appears to be indoors. One can’t help but wonder if daddy would have approved of herb grown under lights? Let’s hope some of those profits make it back to Jamaica.

Decriminalisation in Jamaica - details

Minister of Justice from Jamaica, Mark Golding speaks out in a recent interview:

“There is a long history of calls for reform in Jamaica arising from various commissions and committee reports and so on stretching back quite a long time. Given the nature of Jamaican society and how the cannabis plants is used, how it is folded into Jamaican society in so many ways, we didn’t really feel it was something we wanted to wait on caricom to make a decision on. We felt that this was something that was pressing and needed to be addressed at this time.”

“In terms of medical cannabis we are going to have a regulated industry for that will be informed by the requirement of the intern treaties that Jamaica is party to. In terms of the social justice side of it, I would say what we have done is that we have modified the penalties. We have called it decriminalisation, I suppose. We have modified the penalties so that it becomes a ticketable matter that is dealt with outside the court system and it is not an arrestable infraction. It does not result in a criminal record.”

“Because of a tradition of using ganja in Jamaica as a home remedy for colds and fever, those things, we have allowed a small amount of plants. Up to five plants can be grown on any premises”

On regulating the Industry:

“I think the treaties will involve some state involvement, in the supply chain, but I don’t believe that the model is going to be one of total state control and management of the process because I don’t think our bureaucracy would really be well suited for that activity, so I anticipate that there will be private commercial interests involved in the medical marijuana side of it. Perhaps with some state input, perhaps with depots or inspection processes and so on, but those detailed regulations are to be developed once the legislation has been passed”

Indoor production may occur

Cannabis is grown in the shadows, generally outdoors, but I suppose depending on the market and the product and what you are trying to achieve, it may be necessary to have a more controlled environment so we may see both sides of production”.

What the locals think about all this

Ganja has been illegal in Jamaica for 100 years. It has long been a tool for corrupt police (of which there are widely admitted to be many) in criminalising young, old and poor of Jamaica.

Taking away this ability from the police certainly gives a higher degree of security to the poor and young who will no longer be subject to victimisation because of their use of a simple, beneficial plant.

Celebrations are already underway with Negril hosting their first ever high Times Cannabis Cup this year.

"The hotels, taxis, all tourism stakeholders will benefit. But most importantly, it will bring to the fore the type of technology needed to advance research," said Ras Iyah.

Others are not so convinced:

"Had Bob been alive today he would have ensured more of the profits of his estate reached the poor and Rastas especially. For so many years, Rastas and the poor have been victimised and targeted, charged and incarcerated for marijuana. So now, as the taboo is being finally lifted, the profits won't be benefiting the people of Jamaica. I'm not for this business deal, but this should be a wake up call to our government to stop dragging its feet on marijuana legalisation. Jamaica should be a front runner, and it's not in the race."


“Weed is a degrading and derogatory term to decry and despise the herb. Even the Bible itself tells you that grass is for the cattle and herbs are for the use of man”

“It seems to I and I that America has an agenda. Right? With the herbs as a big money-making industry thing. Trying to penalise and sabotage our herbs which are among the best, if not the best, in the world".

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