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Weed in Jamaica: Cannabis Legal Status Guide

02 September 2022
“Is weed legal in Jamaica?” is a common question of cannabis lovers while travelling there. We've got you covered!
02 September 2022
9 min read
Weed in Jamaica: Cannabis Legal Status Guide

Contents:
Read more
  • 1. Is weed legal in jamaica?
  • 1. a. Possession
  • 1. b. Sale
  • 1. c. Growing
  • 2. Is cbd legal in jamaica?
  • 3. Is it legal to send cannabis seeds to jamaica?
  • 4. Medicinal cannabis in jamaica
  • 5. Industrial hemp in jamaica
  • 6. History and politics
  • 7. Politics
  • 8. Helpful hints

Home to Bob Marley, one of the most famous cannabis consumers of the 20th century, Jamaica has quite a reputation when it comes to marijuana. Famed as an island where cannabis is readily available, it might surprise you to learn that Jamaican cannabis laws are not quite as relaxed as their popular culture would seem to suggest. In today’s article, we’ll take a deep dive into weed in Jamaica, Jamaica's cannabis laws, the country’s long history with the plant, and all the other pertinent details!

Is weed legal in Jamaica?

Despite perceptions and assumptions, cannabis in Jamaica has not been fully legalized, and prior to 2015, it was illegal to use or possess marijuana in Jamaica. Indeed, until recent changes to Jamaica weed laws, those found in possession of marijuana could expect to face a potential prison sentence and a fine of up to $100 per ounce. Prison sentences typically range between one and five years, depending on the specific nature of the offense.

Possession

Despite being intrinsically associated with one another, cannabis in Jamaica is not yet as legal as in other countries like Canada or Uruguay. However, in 2015, Jamaica’s government made the decision to amend its Dangerous Drugs Act, which effectively decriminalized the possession of cannabis for personal use.  Under the new laws, anyone caught in possession of two ounces (or less) of marijuana would no longer be subject to arrest, taken to court, or handed a criminal record. Instead, a small fine can be expected under a system similar to that used for driving offenses. Offenders have up to thirty days to pay the J$500 fine to any tax office.

Unfortunately, anyone found in possession of more than two ounces is still subject to the same criminal proceedings of years gone by. Indeed, even if only for personal consumption, any found with more than two oz can expect a hefty fine and a potential prison sentence. The offense would also be retained in the offender’s criminal record. In addition, consuming cannabis in public areas or within five meters of such an area is forbidden. Such locations include bars and restaurants, tourist establishments, workplaces, government offices, and other places considered “accessible to the public”. There is one exception to the law, though, with Rastafarians legally allowed to use marijuana for religious reasons. However, they may only consume cannabis in areas that have been registered as places of Rastafarian worship.

Sale

Despite its decriminalization for possession, the sale and supply of cannabis for recreational purposes remains prohibited in Jamaica. While the 2015 amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act decriminalized cannabis for personal use, the government also took the opportunity to increase fines for those involved in the sale or trafficking of marijuana.  However, if for medicinal, scientific, or research purposes, Jamaican companies may apply for a retail license with applications requiring approval by the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA).

As part of the government’s amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act and Jamaica weed laws, the CLA was established to oversee and regulate the medical cannabis industry. An agency of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries (MICAF), the body is also responsible for the management of cannabis cultivation for research purposes and the country’s hemp industry. 

Growing

As part of the 2015 legislation, the Jamaican government also legalized the cultivation of marijuana for personal use. Under the updated laws, each household is legally permitted to cultivate up to five cannabis plants. However, while it might be legal to cultivate small quantities of cannabis, large-scale or commercial operations remain illegal without a license as described earlier.

 

Weed in jamaica: growing

Despit illegal, there are over 5.000 hectares dedicated to growing weed in Jamaica.
 

Still, despite its illegality, cannabis cultivation in Jamaica remains rampant, with up to 5,000 hectares or more of illegal marijuana grown or harvested every year. To transition current cannabis horticulturalists into the legal, licensed industry, the government launched its so-called “Alternative Development Programme” in 2017. 

While there is undoubtedly a desire to reduce the illicit growing of cannabis within the Jamaican government, progress on the issue has been disappointingly snail-paced. As of last year, the CLA has issued fewer than 100 cultivation licenses, with several hundred more still only at the conditional stage.

Given the country’s cultural heritage of cannabis growth and usage, it remains to be seen how successful the government will be in countering the illegal cultivation of the plant on the Island. 

Is CBD legal in Jamaica?

Yes, CBD and hemp-derived CBD products are considered to be legal, as long as the THC does not exceed a significant amount. However, the Jamaican government does not explicitly specify this percentage. As it stands, CBD products are usually expensive and difficult to source in Jamacia, with the industry still very much in its infancy on the Island.

Is it Legal to Send Cannabis Seeds to Jamaica?

Yes, cannabis seeds can be sent legally into the country via postal services. While previously illegal, under the changes made in 2015, seeds were legalized to allow the home cultivation of up to five cannabis plants. 

Medicinal Cannabis in Jamaica

Like much of the world has begun to realize, there is significant and valuable medicinal efficacy in the use of cannabis for a variety of medical conditions. While previously illegal, the 2015 amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act now allow for the import of cannabis products for medicinal purposes. As such, medical cannabis in Jamaica is now accessible for some patients. Under the law changes, medical cannabis can be accessed by anyone suffering from:

  • Cancer
  • Terminal illness
  • Severe chronic illness 

In order to qualify for access to medical cannabis, patients must receive an official certification from a registered medical practitioner confirming their illness. A practitioner must also recommend medical cannabis specifically for the illness, and all imports must comply with local laws. As a result of the increased access to medical cannabis, Jamaica opened its first medical dispensary and 2018, with several more now operating across the Island. Indeed, Jamaica is actually responsible for the opening of the world’s first resort-based cannabis dispensary at the acclaimed Hedonism II Resort in Negril.

 

Weed in jamaica: medicinal cannabis

Medical users can be prescribed medical cannabis but all cannabis products must comply with local laws.
 

Having once been demonized, the inclusion of a medical cannabis dispensary at a world-famous resort only serves to illustrate further the radical seachange undertaken by cannabis over the past 10-15 years.

For those visiting Jamaica, it is possible to use medical cannabis; however, an application for a permit must be submitted before your arrival. In order to acquire the permit, a prescription or proof of recommendation for medical cannabis use is required. Failing that, a voluntary declaration can be made that verifies your condition.  Once acquired, consumers can then purchase up to two ounces of cannabis that should be used for medical purposes only. 

Industrial Hemp in Jamaica

While hemp in Jamaica is legal to grow, an active hemp industry is not present on the Island, with Jamaican farmers more skilled in the cultivation of cannabis.

Following the amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act in 2015, hemp was defined as being a cannabis plant where the THC content is below 1%. Regulated instead as a practical fiber that can be used for a variety of purposes, hemp cultivation, sale, import, export, and processing is overseen by the CLA. Yet, despite that legality, there are no plans afoot to introduce mass hemp cultivation across the country, with production limited to a few small farms. 

History and Politics

The image of Bob Marley, perhaps the Island’s most famous son, draped in Jamaican colors while smoking a fat one is one we’ve all seen at least once in our lives. Yet, despite the Island’s synonymity with cannabis culture, marijuana’s arrival in Jamaica is said to have occurred as recently as the 19th century

Indeed, an overseas reputation as being an island of stoners is a stereotype the country has fought for years. This would perhaps explain the strict cannabis laws that existed in Jamaica until as recently as seven years ago. In the earlier part of the 20th century, cannabis had certainly become somewhat rooted in Jamaican society. This coincided with the arrival of the religious consciousness movement known as “Rastafari” to the islands.

In 1913, however, the country’s ‘white elite’ and evangelical worshipers passed the Ganja Law in a bid to curb cannabis consumption. As well as prohibiting marijuana use, the law also gave enforcement officers the right to use force against violators. Despite the law’s passing, however, cannabis use continued, with the majority of Jamaicans seeing it as merely a further example of their colonial oppression. As mentioned earlier, it was only in 2015 that the country would finally decriminalize the plant, in part to finally allow the local Rastafarian population to legally use the plant in their religious ceremonies.

Thankfully, the dark days of Jamaican cannabis persecution are beginning to become a thing of the past, at least in a country where the decriminalization of the plant has seen attitudes towards its usage soften significantly across both the public and political spectrums.

Politics

With those softening attitudes, particularly towards the medicinal application of cannabis, Jamaica now seems likely to utilize the potential that exists within the country for more extensive cannabis cultivation. 

In recent years, the Jamaican government has moved towards developing and expanding relationships with other nations, including canna-friendly Canada. Given the knowledge and experience of local farmers, and the temperate climate for growing cannabis, this would seem an inevitability for a country that suffers tremendous issues with poverty and inequality.

 

Weed in jamaica: politics

Full legalization could occur in the near future.
 

Indeed, in a country once polarised by the cannabis issue, attitudes towards the plant are now broadly tolerant and progressive, suggesting that full legalization could occur in the not-too-distant future. Additionally, the introduction of medical cannabis and the permitting of home cultivation would seem to be broad indicators of the likely future legalization of recreational cannabis in Jamaica. 

While previously being somewhat intolerant of its image as a canna-friendly island, Jamaican cannabis laws have evolved significantly to a level that could even be considered progressive, certainly by global stands.

Helpful Hints

Often perceived as the home of cannabis, consumption is not as typical as you might imagine, with the nation ranking well below other heavy hitters like the US and France for the percentage of regular users. Indeed, as the table below demonstrates, Jamaica doesn´t even make it into the top 10, with a comparatively low 7.2% of the country consuming regularly.

 

Office of Drugs and Crime’s List of the Top 10 Countries in the World for Marijuana use.

Country   Percentage of population that consumers cannabis regularly 
Iceland   18.3%
  United State   16.3%
Nigeria   14.3%
Canada   12.7%
Chile   11.83%
France   11.1%
  New Zealand    11%
Bermuda   10.9%
Australia   10.2%
Zambia   9.5%

 

If you are traveling to Jamaica (or currently live there), it’s something of a local secret that cannabis is broadly available and known locally as a ‘fifty bag’ (about EUR 0.33 per gram) at any local bar or shop or even on the beach. To date, Jamaica has just a few dispensaries located at popular tourist spots on the Island, including

  • Montego Bay
  • Negrils
  • Ocho Rios
  • Kingston. 

The only way to buy cannabis legally is through the licensed medicinal dispensaries found at these locations.

Smoking in public is also prohibited; however, it is possible to consume at your hotel in designated areas. Other options include cannabis tours in some of the Island’s most spectacular nature havens. Yes, really.  Jamaica has not yet fully legalized cannabis to the levels of countries like Canada, the US, and Uruguay. Yet, we feel confident that anyone planning on visiting the Island should find themselves experiencing some of the world’s finest herbs in some of the land´s most breathtaking locations.

 

Don´t forget to check out the Fastbuds blog, where we delve into all the cannabis rules and regulations from other nations across the globe.