Jamaican lawmakers on Tuesday passed the country’s first decriminalization and medical marijuana law, the result of a 38-year Parliamentary push for marijuana policy reform.
The law dramatically alters criminal penalties for “ganja,” as it’s locally described, with possession of up to two ounces warranting only a small fine and no longer resulting in a criminal record. Beyond decriminalization, the law also legalizes the use of cannabis for medicinal, spiritual, and religious purposes. Rastafarianism is a widely-practiced religion in Jamaica, which often involves (but does not require) the ritualistic use of cannabis.
Under the new law, a “cannabis licensing authority” will establish regulations for the growing and distribution of marijuana for “medical, scientific, and therapeutic purposes.” The law also lays groundwork for the country to launch its own industrial hemp industry.
According to Peter Bunting, current National Security Minister of Jamaica, the bill “eliminates an unnecessary source of friction between police and citizens, and ensures that our young people are not gratuitously shackled with criminal records.” Bunting maintains that the new law will not change Jamaica’s stance regarding — or willingness to participate in sanctions against — international drug organizations.
Photo Credit: Jeff Nelson