Jamaica Wrestles With Cannabis Shortage

Jamaica, a country famed for its cultural use of cannabis, is now facing shortages due to high demand, hurricanes and COVID-19.

Cannabis is deeply embedded into the culture of Jamaica, as the plant is synonymous with reggae music as well as considered sacred within the Rastafarian religion.

Reggae and Rasta icons like Bob Marley helped propel cannabis use into the limelight in Jamaica, famously saying "herb gives you a little time to yourself so that you can live."

Now, however, it looks like Jamaica's favorite herb is becoming a little difficult to acquire, following news that the country is facing a marijuana shortage.

Excessive rains followed by an extensive drought made for unideal growing conditions in the country, which wasn't helped by COVID-19 lockdowns that prevented farmers from tending to their crops in the evening.

Simultaneously, like many other parts of the world, Jamaica experienced an increase in demand for cannabis during COVID-19, which ate up the already decreased supplies.

Triston Thompson who works at a consulting firm for Jamaica's legal cannabis industry told Sky News that "it's something so laughable that cannabis is short in Jamaica. It's a cultural embarrassment."

Currently, 29 cultivators have been authorized to grow legal cannabis in Jamaica, with many saying that they remain well-stocked with cannabis. However, legal cannabis can be exponentially more expensive than that found on the black market, making it inaccessible for many locals.

As such, locals have largely turned to the illicit cannabis market, which is where the supply issue has arisen.

In 2015, Jamaica decriminalized the possession of just over 56 grams of cannabis for personal use, reducing the penalty for possession to a fine of 500 Jamaican dollars. Additionally, Jamaicans may grow up to five plants for personal use and consume it legally in private if they practice Rastafarianism.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.