Tuesday May 28, 2019
By Paul Barach
The notion that most Jamaicans enjoy smoking ganja is part of the stereotype trifecta that also includes dreadlocks and listening to reggae. Because of that, it surprises most people to know that up until 2015, marijuana production, distribution, and consumption was illegal in the country. Now decriminalized, cannabis in Jamaica is becoming much more regulated. The country even legalized medical cannabis and has been issuing licenses for cultivation, processing and dispensing marijuana products. Thanks to the “Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act,” the new “Ganja Law” legalizes use for medical, therapeutic, and religious purposes. Jamaicans are banking on medical marijuana legalization as their entry to the cash crop transforming the economies of states and nations alike, and hope to establish a strong presence in this new market as it spreads across the globe. With their first medical cannabis dispensary opening up in March of 2018, Jamaica is primed to become a major cannabis market – and even a destination for tourists to experience the country’s storied cannabis history.
How Does Jamaica’s Medical Marijuana Law Apply to Visitors?
While recreational cannabis is not yet legal in Jamaica, the country’s medical marijuana industry establishes some pretty appealing regulations for visitors looking to consume. Say you’ve just landed at Norman Manley’s International Airport in Kingston for a fun week stay at a local resort. Being the law abiding citizen that you are, your marijuana was left at home. Don’t worry though, odds are you’ll be able to purchase some cannabis locally and legally.
Under Jamaica’s medical cannabis laws, tourists with a valid medical marijuana recommendation from another jurisdiction (such as Colorado or California) are legally able to purchase from licensed medical marijuana retailers. Visitors can even consult a doctor in Jamaica and receive a recommendation to legally engage in the medical ganja industry.
With a valid medical recommendation (from either Jamaica or another legal jurisdiction) in hand, you can leave the airport and purchase marijuana legally from any licensed retailer on the island, up to 2 ounces (or 56 grams). Even if you don’t have a medical marijuana recommendation, the decriminalized nature of cannabis in Jamaica makes consuming illegally pretty low risk. In fact, people caught carrying two ounces of cannabis or less without a valid medical recommendation are only issued minor citations that cost only a few American dollars.
Of course, you’ll want to avoid any run-ins with the law so remember that all marijuana must be consumed on private property and what you buy in Jamaica stays in Jamaica. The nation has incredibly strict international drug trafficking laws that you do not want to run afoul of – remember, it’s never worth it to cross international borders with weed!
What Does the Rest of Jamaica’s Medical Cannabis Law Cover?
Besides cannabis use for medical or therapeutic purposes, the new “Ganja Law” is the first of its kind to legally recognize marijuana use for religious ceremonies, which is great news for self-identified Rastafarians. Members of this religion can now grow and transport their marijuana with no limits, but cannot sell it or consume it outside their place of worship. Everyone else with a medical marijuana permit may also grow up to five plants for personal use, but they are required to be a citizen of Jamaica.
A Boost to Jamaica’s Cannabis Tourism Industry?
Only time will tell the true impact of Jamaica’s new medical marijuana industry. Because sales kicked off a little over a year ago (and commenced shortly after Canada’s legal cannabis market came online), there is still much to be seen in the coming years before an accurate assessment can be made. That being said, marijuana tourism is a thriving market and Jamaica, the birthplace of landrace strains like Lamb’s Bread, Reggae, and Bob Marley, is as on brand as any place for a boom to happen. The barriers to legal purchase can be pretty much tripped over and Kaya Farms, the nation’s first medical marijuana facility, is leading the charge. Their tourist-friendly, wellness-focused facility offers a cafe, lounge, juice bar, CBD massage parlor, and an herb house offering carefully curated heirloom strains. There’s even a doctor on site offering medical marijuana permits for purchase.
Marijuana in Jamaica typically sells for about half of normal US retail prices as well, making it an appealing option for the frugal vacationer.
It also helps that Jamaica is already a tourist destination on its own without the incentive of cannabis. The amount of money spent by the tourists already there will certainly increase thanks to the increased ease and decreased risk of obtaining marijuana. This money will also be going back into the government through taxes and permit fees instead of into the black market, which will further help the economy. Resorts built on Kaya Farms’ model will spring up all over the island, offering tourist-focused marijuana experiences, which will be a strong draw to anyone coming to the island. However, whether medical marijuana alone will be enough of a draw for a flood of new tourists to fly across the ocean remains to be seen. Either way, decriminalizing cannabis and legalizing medical marijuana is morally, socially, and economically beneficial. No matter how many more people it brings, we can say that the island of Jamaica is already on a better path.
What are your thoughts on Jamaica’s medical cannabis and tourism industries? Share them in the comments below!