Jamaica is known internationally for its marijuana, where its use is culturally entrenched despite being legally banned for 100 years. Previous moves to decriminalize the drug failed to advance because officials feared they would violate international treaties and bring sanctions from Washington. With a number of U.S. states relaxing their marijuana laws Jamaica is rethinking its position. Jamaica’s Cabinet has approved a plan to decriminalize marijuana, including for religious purposes, and legislators are expected to authorize it before the end of the year.
Possession of a mere handful of marijuana has for decades clogged Jamaican courts with petty cases and distracted an undermanned police force from tackling the crime cartels pushing drugs and guns. The recently proposed decriminalisation of marijuana has been long anticipated and much unfulfilled. Fearing those big-stick-wielding neighbours, the United States, would crack Jamaica's backside, politicians have avoided pressing the reset button on a law that has proved unwieldy, expensive and downright stupid. (See also: No fall-out expected from decision on ganja)
In Jamaica, marijuana, or ganja, as it is more commonly known on the Caribbean island, is used in religious ceremonies by Rastafarians and as a herbal medicine by many others. But it is not just grown for local consumption. According to the US state department, Jamaica remains the largest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the US as well as other Caribbean islands. Cultivation and import of the drug have been illegal since 1913, although those caught with small amounts are rarely prosecuted.
Jamaica is to decriminalise ganja by year end as the government moves to capitalise on the booming marijuana trade internationally, said Science and Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell. The minister confirmed that ganja will be decriminalised this year in keeping with parliamentary approval. Paulwell, late last year, had come out in full support of positive developments in ganja locally and internationally and said that "Jamaica will not be left behind" as interest and movements in ganja law reform and research and development grows rapidly. (See also: Ganja green light this year)