Modified on: 29/07/2023
This is when the Caribbean country made weed legal
If as soon as you hear the name Jamaica you immediately think of marijuana and Bob Marley, you are in excellent company. Undoubtedly, reggae and cannabis are cultural phenomena that characterize the exotic Caribbean island. Yet, tolerance of the plant so beloved by the great Bob does not have a very long history.
In the following lines, you will discover where the cannabis culture in Jamaica originated and what the legislative path was that led to its partial liberalization.
The origin of cannabis culture in Jamaica: thanks to the Rastafarians
Contrary to what some people think, the link between hemp and Jamaica did not originate with reggae music and its most famous exponent, Bob Marley, but with the spread of a religion imported from Africa: Rastafarianism. This religion was born in the early decades of the 20th century in Ethiopia, a country in the Horn of Africa whose inhabitants recognized the newly elected emperor Ras Tafari as the second coming of the Christian God after Jesus Christ.
The religious ceremonies and rituals of this culture involve the use of marijuana as a means to rise to a state of mind closer to God (which is entirely understandable since this plant gives psychoactive effects that stimulate the imagination). When the first communities of Rastafarians began to form in Jamaica, taking this plant became a widespread custom, although it was not new.
The herb entered Jamaica in the 9th century at the hands of Indian serfs who, like the Jamaicans, suffered from English colonialism. Since the cannabis-Jamaica binomial is long-established, one might naturally think that in the Caribbean country the legalization of this plant (demonized throughout the civilized world following the Marijuana Tax Act) took place decades ago. In reality, it took a long time to achieve a perceptible liberalization, and the Rastafarians know something about it.
How cannabis went from being illegal to legal in Jamaica
Since they started professing their religion, the Rastafarians of Jamaica have had to deal with prohibition for a very long time. That’s right: successive governments on the island before and after independence from the United Kingdom cared little about the fact that taking it was a religious and cultural issue for the Rasta community. As well as being characterized by very harsh penalties for those found in possession of or using marijuana, Jamaica was also noted for an attitude bordering on the persecution of Ras Tafari’s followers.
One episode, in particular, hit the headlines in 1963, when the government arrested hundreds of Rastafarians in a single day, which went down in history as Bad Friday.
The state’s strict attitude towards cannabis continued until 2015 when the current government enacted new, decidedly progressive laws on the possession and use of hemp. In addition to being decriminalized for medical use, a (rather generous) limit was also set on the amount of weed allowed for personal use and the number of plants that can be grown at home.
Today, it is legal in Jamaica to possess up to 56 grams of ganja and to grow up to 5 plants inside one’s home. In addition, its consumption during Rastafarian religious ceremonies has been legalized.
How much does weed cost in Jamaica?
Among the aspects that generate the most curiosity concerning cannabis in Jamaica is its cost. Considering that this country has been accustomed to this plant for decades and that for the past few years its government has taken a liberalist turn towards its consumption, one might think that marijuana has high prices.
Well, even though the Jamaican state has partially legalized the possession, use, and cultivation for personal use for religious or health reasons, the price of cannabis inflorescences is quite low. Five grams of ganja do not cost $1. This means that the expense a tourist travelling in Jamaica might face to buy 1 gram of marijuana is less than 0.20 cents.
Remember, too, that while a Jamaican citizen has to show a doctor’s prescription to be able to buy cannabis for medicinal purposes, a foreign citizen has no such obligation and is simply required to fill out a self-certification form.
Italy, unlike Jamaica, seems a long way from (even partial) legalization of hemp. However, some small steps have been taken in the past few years with the legalization of light cannabis.
Cannabis seeds, on the other hand, are 100% legal and can be both marketed and consumed for various uses, from culinary to cosmetic. At SensorySeeds, you can find a wide selection of marijuana seeds of various strains.