The universe has nearly righted itself as Jamaica, a country renowned for its cultural impact on the marijuana industry, has finally decriminalized cannabis. And on Bob Marley’s birthday, at that.
Nearly left behind when it comes to ushering in marijuana reform laws in the 21st century, the Jamaica Senate recently approved The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act of 2015.
The bill formally decriminalizes the possession of weed in small amounts. This allows citizens to legally possess up to two ounces or 56 grams of weed on their person at any given time and use it for any religious, medical, scientific and therapeutic reason. Smoking cannabis in public places is still a criminal offense, however the amendment is subject to exemptions. The bill also institutes licensing for cannabis, which allows the government to regulate the cultivation, sale and distribution of cannabis for industrial purposes. Portions of revenue from this licensing authority will go to support anti-smoking public education campaigns.
“We need to position ourselves to take advantage of the significant economic opportunities offered by this emerging industry,” Justice Minister Mark Golding said in a statement following the announcement of the bill.
With Golding and the rest of the Jamaican government covering its bases so that sanctions from Washington, D.C. never happen, he acknowledges that the regulatory framework necessary for the country to engage in medical marijuana has not yet been configured.
According to the justice minister, the government wants to make sure that small farmers “are not excluded and it does not just become something exclusively for major capital-intensive investors,” therefore a cultivation limit is unlikely.
Nearly 10 percent of the adult population consumes weed and the Rastafari religion is hinged on utilizing marijuana as sacrament – it’s hard to believe that Jamaica has had such slow cannabis reform. However, one could attribute its tardiness on the countries illicit marijuana production and exportation, which has been under examination by the United States for decades. This scrutiny has been the cause of numerous cooperation agreements in the past, such as a pact to suppress maritime drug trafficking and the extradition treaty between the United States.
Golding has warned that because of the cannabis decriminalization, national security and the integrity of the nation wholly depends on the government preserving international law and regulations. He stressed that government won’t become lax in its position on international and transnational cannabis trafficking.
Presently, the U.S. no longer crushes reform efforts with drug control treaties, instead choosing to move towards pot legalization itself. To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Four of those states have legalized the recreational usage of cannabis as well. The U.S. government has also released statements stating that although cannabis is considered a Schedule I narcotic, the federal government is turning a blind eye on states with forms of legal marijuana.
Senator Tom Tavares-Finson stated that the bill has a “fundamental flaw.” This flaw provides Golding with the power to determine who is and isn’t a practicing Rastafarian when reviewing citizen applications for using and growing cannabis.
It is “an onerous responsibility that has evaded sociologists for the last 50 years,” he said.
As Rastafarians have no formal church or guidelines, there aren’t many places where practitioners can have communal gatherings. In response to this dilemma, many Rastas partake in ritual smoking on street corners or the yards of fellow Rastas. Citing this fact, many experts agree that there’s not a precise way to determine religious usage.
How do you feel about Jamaica finally decriminalizing weed? Will it have any major impact on the industry?