Jamaica, for many people, is associated with marijuana use and cultivation, and has been for decades, and possibly even hundreds of years. Despite the views of popular culture and its role as one of the #1 cannabis exporters to the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom, Jamaica hasn’t always been happy about its reputation as the ganja vacation capital of the world. In fact, The New York Times reported that the country “has enforced draconian drug laws and spent millions on public education to stem its distinction as a pot mecca.” (Part of Jamaica’s appeal for narcotics dealers and organized crime is its geographical location, which is handy for getting drugs from Latin America to countries up north.) But now marijuana is becoming more and more acceptable – and even better, more and more lucrative; Jamaica is changing its tune and wants to cash in on the green rush, too. And I don’t blame them.
Jamaica’s Cannabis Laws
If it’s always been your dream to move to Jamaica and grow a few plants for personal use, now’s a good time to buy a plane ticket. In 2015, Jamaica decriminalized small amounts of cannabis (up to 2 ounces or 56.6 grams) so that possessors would not receive a hit to their criminal records. Also, growing up to five plants on any owned property is allowed, as well. In Jamaica, people who are Rastafarian (a religion founded in the 1930s in Jamaica) can legally use marijuana for religious purposes, and medical marijuana patients visiting Jamaica can apply for permits to buy cannabis while they are there with a doctor’s prescription. So far, medical marijuana is legal in Jamaica, but not recreational – but the country is working on legalization as you read this.
The Jamaican Cannabis Licensing Authority
The Jamaican Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) is a division of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries established under Jamaica’s Dangerous Drug Amendment Act (DDA) in order to implement and regulate a legal ganja (as it is called in Jamaica) and hemp industry. The purpose of the CLA is to create a guide for developing the medical, therapeutic, and scientific aspects of marijuana and hemp. Back in 2015, Jamaica’s National Security Minister stated that the government there “did not plan to soften its stance on transnational drug trafficking or cultivation of illegal plots.” Well, now small plots are no longer illegal, and the St. Lucia Times reported last week that the CLA intends to “grant conditional licenses by the end of the year” for growing, processing, and researching medical cannabis. Out of the 89 licenses expected to be granted, 25 are for cultivation, 18 are for processing, 14 are for research, and eight are for transporting. The final 32 licenses are all for the standard medical ganja retail dispensaries the world is familiar with.
What Happens After Conditional Marijuana Permits are Approved in Jamaica?
The background checks on the licensees is most likely happening right now, and Hyacinth Lightbourne, the Chairman of the CLA Board, noted that the CLA will be cooperating with the Financial Investigations Division, Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency, Ministry of National Security, and other organizations in order to make sure the license applicants are on the up-and-up. Lightbourne emphasized that this is an initial approval, not the actual licensure – this is because the financial end of the applicants’ requirements may not work out. Once applicants get that initial okay, they must prove they have a right to cultivate on the land they own, and transportation operations must prove they own and are permitted to use the ganja transport vehicle (GTV?). Retailers must be “registered pharmacists, therapists, and herb houses” to gain the final licensure in Jamaica.
What is the Dangerous Drug Amendment Act?
The Dangerous Drug Amendment Act (DDA) was signed into law in Jamaica on March 20, 2015, and changed the legal definition of “ganja” to allow its use for human medical purposes and hemp with no prosecution. It also allowed for Rastafarian religious use, and the DDA amendment act changes the language of the act to further decriminalize medical and religious cannabis use, but does not change the penalties for illegal international cannabis trafficking. Essentially, as long as you don’t have more than 2 ounces and five plants or your person or property, you will get a $5 slap on the wrist and that’s it.
When Can I Smoke Marijuana in Jamaica?
If you already live there as a citizen, you have a medical cannabis license, and you’re smoking on your own property with less than five plants (or 2 ounces), you can light up that Marley-sized spliff right now. If not, you have to have that doctor’s prescription on you and apply with the CLA for a medicinal marijuana use permit while you are visiting. If you want to move to Jamaica or start up a cannabis business there, there are a few more hoops you have to jump through. In the meantime, legalization, regulation, and the establishment of Jamaica’s medical cannabis dispensaries is moving right along.