You may be surprised to know that Jamaican cannabis regulations are not nearly as permissive as the country’s culture is renowned for.
However, The Drugs Amendment Act of 2015 established a legal market for medical cannabis, placing Jamaica at the forefront of cannabis legislation reform in the developing world.
Numerous local cannabis enterprises have attracted foreign investment, including from Canada, the United States, and Europe.
So the question remains; what can you expect from Jamaica’s cannabis industry?
Let’s find out.
The legal status of cannabis use in Jamaica
Before diving into any other factors, let us look into the legislation.
Marijuana possession and use was illegal in Jamaica before 2015 and those found with cannabis were jailed for 1 to 5 years depending on their particular type of crime.
They were also fined as much as $100 per ounce.
However, in 2015 restrictive cannabis laws were moderated. Here are the key changes made during the amendment:
The Dangerous Drugs Act of Jamaica was amended in 2015, thereby decriminalizing the possession of cannabis for personal use.
Anybody found in possession of fewer than two ounces of marijuana would not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or issued a criminal record under the new regulations.
However, an alternate system was introduced. Similar to traffic violations, the offenders would have to pay a fine of J$500 within 30 days to any tax office.
Keep in mind, though, the same criminal procedures from earlier times still apply to anyone discovered in possession of more than two ounces of cannabis.
Even if simply for personal use, anybody caught owning over two ounces faces a steep fine and maybe jail time.
Furthermore, it's against the law to use cannabis in public locations or within five meters of them. The only exception to the rule is that Rastafarians are legally permitted to consume marijuana for religious purposes.
But they are also limited to using cannabis at locations authorized as Rastafarian worship sites.
Jamaica continued to ban the sale and supply of cannabis for recreational use.
Despite the Dangerous Drugs Act decriminalizing marijuana for personal use under the 2015 revisions, the government used the occasion to increase penalties for individuals involved in the sale or trafficking of marijuana.
Nonetheless, Jamaican businesses may seek a retail license for medical, academic, or research purposes and these applications should be approved by the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA).
The CLA was created to manage and control the medical cannabis business and was part of the government's modifications to the Dangerous Drugs Act and Jamaica's marijuana legislation.
This organization is a division of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries (MICAF).
It oversees the nation's hemp business as well as cannabis production for research.
The Jamaican government approved the growing of marijuana for personal use as part of the 2015 law.
The new regulations allow each household to legally grow up to five cannabis plants.
While it may be lawful to grow some amounts of cannabis, large-scale or commercial operations are still prohibited without a license.
Even yet, Jamaica continues to have a large-scale cannabis production industry, with up to 5,000 hectares or more of illegal marijuana being planted and harvested annually.
The government started its so-called "Alternative Development Plan" in 2017 to help current cannabis growers migrate into the licensed, legal market.
While there were efforts on the part of the Jamaican government to curtail illegal cannabis cultivation, the speed of change has been somewhat stagnant.
It is still unclear how effectively the authorities are willing to control the illicit production of the plant on the Island given the nation's long history of cannabis use and growth.
Outlook of medicinal cannabis in Jamaica
There is considerable and valuable therapeutic effectiveness in using cannabis for a range of medical ailments, which the scientific world has just started to acknowledge.
The amendment of the Dangerous Drugs Act made it permissible for cannabis products to be imported for medical use.
As a result, anybody suffering from medical problems such as cancer, severe chronic illness and terminal illness can now acquire medicinal cannabis under the revised laws.
However, patients must get a formal certification from a licensed physician confirming their disease to be eligible for the use of medicinal cannabis.
Also, a doctor must approve medicinal marijuana, particularly for the condition, and all imports must adhere to local regulations.
Due to the easier availability of medicinal marijuana, Jamaica launched its first medical dispensary in 2018 and today several others are running all across the Island.
Also, the first resort-based cannabis dispensary in the world was opened in Jamaica.
This medical marijuana dispensary highlights the remarkable transformation that cannabis has undergone in Jamaica as it was previously stigmatized.
Future of the cannabis industry in Jamaica
Cannabis has recently started to be seen as a business prospect in Jamaica and 2015 saw the beginnings of the Jamaican cannabis industry's growth.
At first, the license system was criticized for being stringent and favoring the wealthy, and economic development was sluggish.
However, things started to take an unexpected turn after Jamaica Medical Cannabis Company (JMCC) made the most significant investment in the cannabis industry the nation had seen in years.
The identification and preservation of Jamaica's natural cannabis strains were the goals of a $2 million investment made by JMCC in a 10-year agreement.
Jamaica is surely welcoming cannabis, but cautiously.
It is attempting to profit from the cannabis industry without upsetting the US.
The market for legal cannabis worldwide was estimated to be worth US$17.8 billion in 2021, and it is anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25% from 2020 to 2030.
It will assist Jamaica in recouping lost sugar sales revenue, which was formerly the island nation's largest cash crop.
Jamaica's Minister of Industry, Investment, and Commerce, Dr. Hon. Norman Dunn believes that Jamaica is on track to being the world's major transshipment hub of medical cannabis.
It is due to Jamaica possessing a great mix of high-quality native strains, extensive local expertise, and the country's climate.
Moreover, cannabis's rising acceptability for medicinal use and the rising number of nations that have legalized or decriminalized it is driving up demand.
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