Jamaica has legalized the possession and usage of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, as well as religious, therapeutic and medicinal purposes
On Feb. 25, Jamaica’s parliament approved a number of amendments to its Dangerous Drugs Act, allowing for the possession of up to 2oz (56g) of marijuana and the establishment of a new licensing authority to regulate medical marijuana.
Smoking or possessing cannabis in public areas will still remain illegal, however, the penalty for such a crime will only be a small fine with no arrest.
The latest change in this policy comes at a time when countries around the world, including the United States, are beginning to decriminalize the drug.
Marijuana has been illegal on the island nation for over a century despite its widespread usage. Now, smokers of the drug will no longer have to fear possible jail time on top of a fine, or a criminal record.
Jamaican MP, Delroy Chuck, believes that the amendments will reconcile Jamaican law with what is already being practiced on a widespread scale across the country.
“The general feeling is one of satisfaction, that at last, what has been a cultural practice amongst a large group of persons, and also generally amongst large areas of our rural population [has become legal],” said Chuck.
The amendments were first proposed by the Minister of National Security, Peter Bunting, however, he is being cautious and says the state will be watching the situation closely and what affects the amendments will have.
Bunting says the bill will remain “under constant review so that if there are unanticipated negative consequences, we will be able to deal with those”.
Marijuana, also known as ganja, is thoroughly entrenched in Jamaican culture, as well as in the Rastafarian religion, as popularized by reggae musician Bob Marley.
Rastafarians will be allowed to use the plant as a sacrament in worship, according to an interview by CBC Radio with Chuck. Members of the Rastafarian religious movement currently comprise less than one per cent of the Jamaican population.
The drug has also been used for decades as a medicinal herb on the island.
People will now be able to obtain the plant for medical reasons with a proper medical certificate.
Chuck claims that the medicinal usage of marijuana is widespread in rural Jamaica.
“And also when they [rural folk] have various ailments, such as headaches or stomach aches,[they claim] that the marijuana tends to reduce the pain,” he said.
Jamaica has become the latest country to decriminalize the drug as part of a worldwide trend toward legalization.
Several South American countries, as well as some U.S. states, most recently Colorado and Alaska, have been a part of this polar shift in marijuana policy in recent years.