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Is Marijuana Legal in Jamaica ?

Updated on July 2, 2014

One of the things that Jamaica is known for is marijuana. People always wonder “is marijuana legal in Jamaica?” However, what most people do not know is it is very illegal. Getting caught with small quantities of marijuana can lead to a criminal record. Even though it is an offence punishable by a small fine or a week in jail, it is a major drawback to have a criminal record on the small island. A person with a marijuana possession offence gets almost the same treatment as a person with a murder record.

A criminal record for possessing small quantities of marijuana can make it difficult to get a job, travel or even start a business. I have seen a number of Jamaicans lose the opportunity to pursue scholarships in first world countries because of this offence.

Marijuana still remains illegal in Jamaica in general. Steps are being made to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use. This is a big step for the country.

Why Did The Jamaican Government Decide to Decriminalize Marijuana?


1. Increase Opportunities for Marijuana Smokers

This is the million dollar answer. The main reason the Jamaican Government has made such a step is to give the common man a break. This gives marijuana offenders an opportunity to get a job or pursue education overseas. It is also evident within the court system of Jamaica that repeat marijuana offenders may not have committed any other crimes. Ganja smokers do not have a reputation for being violent. They tend to be more laid back.

2. Concentrate on More Serious Crimes

Jamaica does not have the resources to arrest and process marijuana smokers. Those held with small quantities may take up 20% of the courts time. It is draining on government resources to the point where marijuana smokers get tried in groups on a daily basis instead of individually to speed up the process. There are also some lazy police officers who specialize in locking up people for small quantities in order to fill their hours. In Jamaica, the previous laws permits officers to make arrest for marijuana crumbs or a single seed. The government hopes to unlock some resources and time in the justice system to fight more serious crimes.

3. Economic Growth

I also believe that the ministers in the Jamaican parliament have been swayed by the opportunity to grow Jamaica’s economy with marijuana (hemp). The byproducts that can be derived from the plant is endless such clothing, building materials and ethanol. Organizations from Canada and the Netherlands have shown interest in importing marijuana (hemp) from the island. Jamaica has the perfect climate and soil to grow hemp without fertilizers or any other artificial means. Another source of revenue for the government would be to ticket users who smoke in public.

4. Following the Trend

One of the main reasons for decriminalizing marijuana was because of the trend in the world at the moment. Colorado and Washington State are great examples. Uruguay has legalized it. Netherlands, USA and Canada have regulation on its use in small quantity.

Making marijuana almost legal in Jamaica may even be a publicity stunt to bring more recognition to the country. it does not seem like a bad idea since most people think that marijuana is legal in Jamaica anyway. I wrote about this in Top Ten Stereotypes about Jamaicans.

Expunging Marijuana Criminal Records

This is the process that sets Jamaica from other jurisdictions around the world that have decriminalized marijuana. All those who have an offence for small quantities of marijuana will be forgiven. As I said before, the reason they are doing this is because those offenders tend to not have any other record. Other criminal records will not be affected

Rastafarians Will Get a Break

Even though Rastafarians make up around 3% of the Jamaican population, they are easy visible targets for police officers. The new law will give Rastafarians and other spiritual practices that use marijuana for divine purposes a sigh of relief. This group represents a perfect example of those who only have criminal records because of marijuana use. More about Rastafarian Culture.

What is The New Marijuana Law in Jamaica Exactly?

Minister of Justice, Mark Golding has stated that Jamaica’s Dangerous Drug Act law will be amended in the summer of 2014.

  • Allowing possession of small quantities of marijuana not more than 2 ounces (57 grams)
  • Allowing the use of small quantities of marijuana in private areas
  • Allowing the use of small quantities for marijuana for spiritual purposes
  • Allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes as prescribed by a registered medical doctor

To answer the question, is marijuana legal in Jamaica? In large quantities it is very illegal. For small quantities in a private area it is legal.

How Will it Change Jamaica?

To be honest, I do not think anything will change much on the street level. Marijuana consumption will not increase because it was already widely available. The police knew they were fighting an imaginary battle, because they were not deterring anyone from using the plant. There won’t be people walking around smoking because it was always used privately. Furthermore, marijuana is still illegal to use in public in Jamaica. The price of marijuana will not change like what happened in Colorado.

In the future, I believe there will be a community of registered ganja farmers. They will be heavily regulated and taxed. Farmers who wish to become a legal grower will have thousands of paper to fill out like any other legal business in Jamaica. There will still be a lot of red tape to get around.

I see this as a victory for common sense. The trend over the years has been good. For example, the government has made cigarettes illegal to smoke in public in order to protect the non-smoking population. A year after that, they have decriminalized small quantities of marijuana for use in private. Pretty soon Jamaican will be extracting ethanol and deriving medical compounds from marijuana. It is a good look for the future.

P.S. The juvenile system will still treat under age users as at-risk youths and handle the situation accordingly.

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© 2014 Marvin Parke


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    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 3 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Aussie. They have not passed it into law yet but it looks promising. This new law is not for the farmers. They will still have to grow in remote areas. In terms of demand and supply nothing will change. Just recently a smoker was arrested and died in jail because of other dangerous criminals inside. So the government won't be arresting any smokers until the new law is passed. Everyone knows smokers are not dangerous criminals and should not be classified as one.

    • AussieRespect profile image

      Will Sellin 3 years ago from Land Down Under

      Respect Rasta1. This is great news for the Rastafarian community, I'm impressed. Finally governments across the globe are opening up to this beneficial herb. We are fighting for legalization in Australia for our cancer patients. I do have a few concerns about how this will all pan out particularly in Jamaica. The main one being local farmers. They do make their income from farming the herb. Could legalization affect the demand/price for their product, leaving the farmers with no income? Maybe a Farmers Union should be created to regulate and support local farmers or even a charity, such as sponsor a ganja farmer? I'm interested to make this happen. What are your thoughts Rasta1?

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 3 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Torri. Thanks for passing through.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 3 years ago

      I didn't know marijuana wasn't legal in Jamaica. Thanks for this hub. Very informational.

    • las81071 profile image

      las81071 3 years ago

      So true.

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 3 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Las. That is the main reason Americans cannot clear their records from marijuana offenses, even though it may become legal in their state. The federal law is what really counts.

    • las81071 profile image

      las81071 3 years ago

      Agreed! Here in the states it's war by state but federally they

      Can't decide if they want to decriminalize or keep illegal

      Yet the support for legalization is gaining ground by the minute

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 3 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect Las. It wouldn't be a bad move to further regulate alcohol either. Full time, Jamaica wise up.

    • las81071 profile image

      las81071 3 years ago

      I have no idea why this is taking so long every where yet as a society

      We continue to accept alcohol

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 3 years ago from Jamaica

      What's even more odd Billy. America was the main financier for our prohibition.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My son was just telling me this past weekend that marijuana wasn't legal in your country, but soon it will be. I was surprised. How can it be legal in our state of Washington and not Jamaica? How odd.

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 3 years ago from Jamaica

      Respect MsDora, it should have been done a long time ago. I guess everything happens within its appointed time.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Seems that Jamaica is taking a very practical approach in their handling of marijuana. Who knows? The users may respond with satisfactory cooperation. Soon it will be really be, No Problem!