Is Marijuana Legal in Jamaica?

The country most associated with cannabis isn't as green-friendly as you think.

Person handcuffed in Jamaica for cannabis possession. Source: Wikileaf

With a largely cannabis-positive culture and recognition as the birthplace of reggae, many are surprised to find Jamaica’s cannabis laws aren’t as in-line with the lifestyles of this Caribbean country’s residents as they might think.

It wasn’t until 2015 that Jamaica even decriminalized marijuana, reducing penalties for possession of small amounts to a petty offense. Residents could then grow up to five plants without being penalized. Now there is access to legal medical cannabis, though getting the ball rolling for a thriving cannabis economy has proved difficult.

Medical cannabis was legalized as part of an amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act, a slow start to regulating cannabis in a country where it’s already widely prevalent. Today, they’re still trying to figure out exactly what regulated cannabis in Jamaica looks like.

The Cannabis Licensing Authority has been working under the Jamaican Ministry of Health to establish concrete guidelines for cannabis in Jamaica. Under the Dangerous Drugs Act amendment, residents can “handle ganja for medical, scientific and therapeutic purposes.

Can Tourists Legally Obtain Cannabis?

Young women helping each other

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So you’re visiting Jamaica and you’re going to get your hands on some weed one way or another, we get it. If you somehow find yourself with under two ounces (hey, I’m not gonna ask where it came from), you’re not going to get locked up. You may get a small fine amounting to about five U.S. dollars.

Maybe you don’t want to buy cannabis the old school way, though. What’s a visitor to do?

If you’re already a medical marijuana patient in a different jurisdiction, you can use your card to legally purchase cannabis in Jamaica. If you’re not already a medical marijuana patient, you can go to Kaya Herb House or the like and obtain a doctor’s recommendation. It’s easy, cheap, and doesn’t require more than a mild ailment.

Medical Marijuana in Jamaica

Medical marijuana is legal to use in Jamaica under the guidance of a physician. Users will need a permit issued from a registered physician certified in the use of medical cannabis and must be above the age of 18.

In an island country where weed is already pretty accessible and decriminalized in small amounts, the idea of finding a registered physician to recommend cannabis is abhorrent at a glance. But just wait.

Let’s start by looking at Island Strains, the first medical herb house to open in Montego Bay. This licensed shop boasts easy access to cannabis for a number of conditions from chronic pain to depression, insomnia, and lack of appetite among others. They’ve got a smoking room, a room to consult with a physician to obtain a medical card, and even a seaside deck and bar. It’s that fun.

People can come to Island Strains, consult with a physician to get a permit, purchase cannabis, and hang out in the smoking-room doing whatever it is people do in them. And it costs about 10 US dollars to consult with a physician, making it ridiculously easy to get your hands on a permit.

Female Cannabis Plant Budding

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The Miami Herald says, “permission to legally smoke takes all but five minutes. No local address needed. No medical record requested— not even a physical exam is required.”

So if you’re looking to legally obtain some cannabis in Jamaica, you can visit the herb house to see what the doctor has to say. You’ve got a pretty good chance of finding out that cannabis may help your qualms.

Kaya Herb House, the first medical dispensary in Jamaica, paved the way for shops like Island Strains. They have a cafe, spa, smoking room, and, of course, qualified doctors ready to give out recommendations for medical cannabis.

Setbacks in Jamaican Cannabis Policies

While cannabis use is and has been widely prominent in the island nation, Jamaica risks falling far behind other countries with regulated medical and recreational cannabis for several reasons.

They’ve faced difficulties with the U.S. banks they rely on to convert their U.S. dollar transactions because the U.S. banks argue that  “given the Caribbean’s small size and the hefty fines now being imposed by regulators trying to stem terrorism financing and money laundering, the risks of clearing checks or transferring money as intermediaries just isn’t worth it.

These banking regulations have inhibited their ability to accept license applications, the crucial first step in joining the legal industry. Delano Seiveright, director of the Cannabis Licensing Authority said, “of the 600 requests for cannabis licenses, the licensing authority has awarded less than 40 and given conditional approval to another 200.”

Until the banking situation is figured out, prospects for recreational cannabis in Jamaica are not great. They’ll need to get their medical cannabis figured out before implementing recreational.

Regardless, if you’re caught with under two ounces, it’s a petty fine that won’t impede your chances of future employment, housing, and basically every aspect of life that a criminal record can affect.

The Bottom Line

As of 2015, cannabis is decriminalized in Jamaica for adults over 18 possessing under two ounces. Marijuana for medical, scientific, and therapeutic purposes is legal as well.

Adults can go to medical dispensaries offering a number of commodities, including smoking rooms, spas, and most conveniently, doctors willing and ready to give out a medical marijuana recommendation. For a small price, residents and tourists alike can receive a medical marijuana recommendation and legally purchase cannabis in Jamaica.

The nation still has a long way to go until they’ve really figured out their legal cannabis situation. They’re paving different paths than other places with legal cannabis, and they’re also faced with obstacles beyond their control, like U.S. banks not wanting to get involved for fear of criminal activity.

For now, getting access to cannabis in Jamaica is not tough. Effectively regulating their market is a totally different story, though.

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