Believe it or not, cannabis is still technically illegal in Jamaica. In fact, the country’s first medical marijuana company, Medicanja, launched a mere six months ago.
However, inspired by successful legalization experiments in Colorado, Washington, and Uruguay, Jamaican farmers and some politicians have decided it’s time to legally capitalize on the culturally-entrenched industry: largely through the advent of popular reggae legend Bob Marley, Jamaica already has a powerful claim on cannabis culture — in fact, Jamaica-brand ganja might be the world’s most popular perception of marijuana.
Earlier this week, Rastafarian locals and ganja farmers gathered in downtown Kingston, the country’s capital, to discuss the road to legalization. They kicked off a project called Jamaica’s Ganja Future Growers and Producers Association, which hosted guest speakers from Jamaica, the USA, and Canada who talked about various benefits of the drug and how the marijuana industry is swiftly bandwagoning into a raging success story.
“The time has come to provide an opportunity for Jamaicans to benefit from the marijuana industry,” said Angela Brown Burke, mayor of Kingston and senator in Jamaica’s Parliament. Her husband, Paul Burke, heads the new ganja growers and producers association, and is also the general secretary of the PNP, the government’s current ruling party.
Phillip Paulwell, the leader of government business in Jamaica’s House of Representatives, announced a popular opinion earlier this year: “It is my view that decriminalization of the weed will become a reality this [calendar] year, arising from the Parliamentary debate and the support by the majority of the members.”
According to one study, most Jamaican’s (85%) believe that medicinal products should be created from the plant, while a smaller majority (66%) claimed to have used the drug themselves.
There is one major difference between the legalization plans of Jamaica and what was passed in Uruguay many months ago: mainly, Jamaican ganjapreneurs are pushing for legalization so they might capitalize on the ganja tourism industry, much like what we’ve seen in Colorado these past six months. In Uruguay, where marijuana was legalized across an entire nation for the first time earlier this year, tourists are not allowed to buy or use the drug.
“I do believe it may boost our economy, but I don’t think we should sacrifice our human capital to gain the marijuana dollar,” said Dayton Campbell, a physician and member of Jamaica’s Parliament. While Campbell does not oppose using marijuana medicinally, he believes that it should not be smoked for the health risks it poses to the body and developing brain.
However, marijuana advocates continue to lobby based on very clear projections, which indicate that increased tourism would result from legalizing Jamaica’s cannabis culture. One small-time grower predicted the rush for ganja tourism: “Thousands — if they know they can come into a ganja field and police wouldn’t arrest them — they would come. Hotels would be full of people. Everybody would benefit.”
Photo Credit: Nicolas Oren
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