Is Weed Legal in Jamaica? | Cannabis Legalization

Is recreational cannabis legal in Jamaica? Is medicinal marijuana legal in Jamaica? What about Jamaica's CBD laws? Find out in this article.

There is no place on planet earth more iconically associated with weed than Jamaica. For most people, it's one of the first thing they think of when picturing the country along with reggae, Rastafarianism, Bob Marley and Usain Bolt.

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Jamaica is also home to more than 2.9 million people and generates a robust GDP of approximately $14.77 billion each year. And now, more than forty years after reggae superstar Peter Tosh urged the government to "Legalize It", Jamaica is finally beginning to acknowledge the financial potential of the legal cannabis industry.

However, a question that's becoming increasingly popular is, can you smoke weed in Jamaica?

Understandably, it can be difficult to keep up with the breakneck pace of cannabis legalization, with states and countries across the globe changing their stance on the drug at a near constant rate.

Whether it be the ACT in Australia legalizing the plant, Hawaii decriminalizing it, or Illinois straight-up legalizing weed, there's always a new legislative update to remain apprised of when it comes to weed laws.

But, don't worry, we've got you covered. Here's everything you need to know about Jamaica's weed laws

Is Recreational Cannabis Legal in Jamaica?

Although marijuana is often seen as a symbol of Jamaica, the country was relatively late to legalize the drug.

Cannabis actually remained illegal in Jamaica until mid-2015, when the country passed an amendment to its existing drug law that decriminalized possession for personal use. Under the law, possession of up to 56.6 grams of cannabis is now treated as a petty offence, which means that it will not result in a criminal record.

Instead, offenders will be hit with maximum fine of USD$5, while Rastafari-practicing adults are now permitted to use the drug freely for sacramental purposes, making Jamaica the first country to legalize marijuana use for religious purposes.

Jamaican citizens are now also permitted to cultivate up to five cannabis plants for personal use, although smoking it in public is still a fineable offence. However, smoking has now been made legal in both licensed premises and private residences.

The amendment also allowed for the development of a miniature pot tourism industry, as the law permits travellers who are sick—or have a valid marijuana prescription from a doctor in their home country—to purchase cannabis from one of Jamaica's legal dispensaries.  

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Additionally, the country recently announced the introduction of a new initiative known as the Alternative Development Programme, which will offer black market cannabis cultivators a pathway to the legal industry.

The scheme was established by the country's Cannabis Licensing Authority—after receiving approval from the Cabinet of Jamaica—and will initially function as a one-year pilot program.

According to the Jamaican Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green, the government intends to assist the transition of black market cannabis farmers into the legal industry as a way of increasing the earning potential of marginalised communities that have been overly affected by drug-related crime.

"What we will be doing in 2020, is looking for more community groups of traditional growers that we will engage and provide the technical support for them to transition into the medicinal marijuana industry," Green said.

If the government's transitional model proves successful, it could also work to significantly increase the amount of legally available product in Jamaica—which would lead to a sharp spike in tax revenue—thanks to the substantial spread of country's marijuana black market.

Although this should come as no surprise, as current estimates suggest that there is approximately 37,000 acres of illegally cultivated cannabis still grown in Jamaica every year.

Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Jamaica?

When Jamaica moved to decriminalize cannabis in 2015, the government also made the decision to approve a measure that legalized medicinal marijuana.

Under the act, possession of cannabis for medicinal or therapeutic purposes is now completely legal, as long as the patient has permission from their doctor. You can also legally purchase medicinal marijuana in Jamaica if you've already been prescribed it in another jurisdiction.

However, what makes things interesting is that the Jamaican Government has an extremely flexible definition of the word "therapeutic", which means that the range of conditions that qualify for cannabis prescription is far wider than in most countries.

While most healthcare providers will only prescribe patients medicinal cannabis if they suffer from a life-threatening disease—such as cancer or drug-resistant epilepsy—Jamaican doctors are perfectly willing to provide tourists with a medical marijuana card for relatively mild conditions, including anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain and nausea among others.  

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In fact, some medicinal marijuana dispensaries, such as the Montego Bay-based retailer Island Strains, have an on-site physician who can provide you with a pot prescription for as little as USD$10.

And according to a report from Miami Herald journalist, Jacqueline Charles, the process is exceedingly easy as, as obtaining "permission to legally smoke takes all but five minutes."

"No local address needed. No medical record requested—not even a physical exam is required," Charles said.

Certain cannabis dispensaries even allow patients to "self-certify" themselves for a medicinal marijuana prescription by filling in a simple form.  

Is CBD Legal in Jamaica?

As you might expect, products containing cannabidiol (CBD) are also legal in Jamaica, and until a few years ago were subject to very little regulation due to the compound's lack of psycho-active qualities.

However, this changed in 2018 when the Jamaican Ministry of Health announced that all locally produced CBD products must undergo a registration process.

The move was made in response to the growing popularity of the drug, which led the government to declare that cannabis-derived products must only be sold "at a registered pharmacy and by a registered pharmacist".

"According to the Food and Drugs Act (1975), any substance manufactured, sold or represented for use in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention of a disease, disorder or symptom is classified as a drug and must be registered and the requisite permits obtained from the Ministry of Health," a press release stated.

One of the country's largest CBD manufacturers is Zimmer and Co, which has positioned itself as a leading health and wellness product supplier in the Caribbean market.

The company's product range is available in more than 200 pharmacies across the country, and CEO T'Shura Gibbs seems confident that big growth is on the way, as the Jamaican market is finally beginning to develop a strong appetite for CBD products.

"As populations gain a better understanding of CBD and the endocannabinoid system in their bodies, we see tremendous opportunities to deliver medicine both in Jamaica and our global markets," she said.

This view was also echoed by Jamaican pharmacist Jessy Golding, who argued that 80% of local healthcare providers are "CBD-friendly" because it's, "very hard to not believe in the product when you see and hear of all the wonderful feedback."

"The fact that the pharmacies are now carrying CBD and that the Ministry of Health is registering these products adds legitimacy to CBD as a medicinal drug."

"I have doctor friends who I've introduced the products to just recently, and their patients are reporting improvement in pain management, insomnia and anxiety," Golding said.

Most CBD products are typically made availble to consumers over-the-counter, however some pharmaceutical grade formulations may still require a doctor's prescription.

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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