With the way the place is portrayed in popular culture, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Jamaica was the first and, for a long time, the only country in the world where marijuana was fully legal. It’s the cliché stereotype of the place we’ve all perpetuated once or twice, furthering the presumption that if there’s one thing you can do legally in Jamaica, it’s blaze a blunt.
Contrary to the conclusions of about 99% of the world’s population however, marijuana use, ownership and the growing thereof has always been just as frowned upon by law enforcement authorities as is has elsewhere in the world.
That is, until just a few short days ago.
Yes, in what’s likely to come as quite the shock to those having misconstrued the subject all along, Jamaican lawmakers have within the past week decriminalised small amounts of marijuana following the passing of the first ever act of its kind. In addition to allowing the good people of Jamaica to carry and smoke weed in modest quantities, a new licensing system has been outlined in order to develop a working medical cannabis industry for the benefit of the whole population.
Isn’t this just the kind of news you can’t wait to hear about your own home country?
Debate went on for a fair few hours last Tuesday, but there was really never any real doubt as to the outcome. What’s interesting about the new bill, however, is that while it will make enormous changes to the country’s attitudes to weed, it’s still not totally legal for members of the public. Instead, those carrying no more than 2oz (56.6g) at any one time will be considered to have committed a petty offence and will therefore not face any kind of prosecution or a criminal record. In addition, Jamaicans will be permitted to grow up to five plants per household.
So, if you add that up, that’s a new bill where you can grow five plants worth of the stuff legally, but to be in possession of it in small amounts will still technically not be legal, but only considered a petty offence.
It’s nice to see that the lawmakers of Jamaica are prone to coming up with the same wacky and nonsensical laws and rules as the rest of the world’s politicians.
Not to poke fun at that change on their side of things, however, as it’s better than anything we can expect on this side of the pond for quite some time. It’s not largely expected that the change will suddenly result in vastly more Jamaicans taking up pot smoking just because they can – weed use has of course been prolific across the region pretty much forever. An important part of the Rastafarian religion, ganja has been a part of Jamaica’s lifestyle for generations and it’s unlikely that the change in national laws will make any real difference in this sense.
Instead, the biggest difference of all will likely be that of unprecedented time, effort and resources being pumped into the research of medicinal marijuana for the good of the Jamaican public in general. Recent years and dozens of large-scale studies have brought about substantial evidence to suggest that with the right focus, support and open-minded approach, the benefits of weed and its extracts for use in a medicinal capacity could be fully understood in the very near future. With the new law in-tow, Jamaica could become one of the world’s leading authorities in medicinal marijuana research.