The Jamaican cabinet has approved a bill to legalise the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The bill appears to be a full-on decriminalisation and legalisation: The country is eliminating criminal penalties for possession and setting up a Cannabis Licensing Authority, though unlicensed export of marijuana will continue to be illegal.
The bill, which will to the senate for approval on Friday 23 January, is a major boost for Jamaica’s Rastafarian’s who use marijuana for religious purposes. If the bill goes through they will be able to smoke it without fear of prosecution.
If passed, the legislation will ensure that possession of two ounces of the drug will no longer be a criminal offence and allow individuals to cultivate up to five plants on their premises.
Marijuana farming has long been a profitable source of income for some Jamaican farmers despite its illegal status in the country. A preliminary report by the Caribbean Community of 15 nations and territories said medical marijuana could help boost the region’s economy.
Previous efforts to decriminalize marijuana, or “ganja” as it is largely known in Jamaica, failed to advance because Jamaican officials feared they would violate international treaties and bring sanctions from Washington. But those concerns have lessened now that a number of nations and some US states have relaxed marijuana laws.
The Cannabis Commercial and Medicinal Research Taskforce (CCMRT) says it is pleased at Cabinet’s “bold move” towards ganja decriminalisation and the establishment of a legal and regulated medical ganja regime.
Although Jamaica relies heavily on tourism the benefits are not shared among a wide cross section of the population. With the legalisation of ganga maybe this will change and more people will leave their hotel compounds and cruise ships and venture out into Jamaica proper.
Jamaica should now look to legalising the growth of industrial hemp. This would also provide a boost to the economy.