Marijuana, otherwise known as Cannabis sativa, is believed to have been cultivated around 4000-6000 years ago in Asia. The general belief however, is that it was brought to Jamaica by the Indians. Marijuana was first prohibited in Jamaica because the Judeo-Christian groups at the time worked alongside the US government to influence the government to criminalize it around the 1970-1980s.
Marijuana, also known as Ganja, contains approximately sixty six chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are two main active chemicals and while THC is responsible for the feelings of euphoria a person gets when they intake the plant, CBD is used for medical purposes. The bud is generally used for smoking, the stem is more often used for making paper and fibre and the stem, leaf, bud and roots can be used for both medicine and consumption.
Marijuana is generally thought of as addictive. Marijuana is said to induce “red eyes” and feelings of lethargy and euphoria, it does have some negative effects. Marijuana has many uses including assisting in the treatment of glaucoma, seizures, depression, cancer, anorexia, AIDS (in terms of inducing appetite). Additionally, marijuana is used industrially to make caulking, nets, currency and even truck linings and door panels.
There have been debates about the legalization or prohibition of marijuana for decades and there were prior attempts to relax the laws, but officials feared that this action would violate international treaties and bring sanctions from the United States.
The Jamaica Gleaner article entitled ‘Senate passes Ganja Law’ states that the Justice Minister, at the time, Senator Mark Golding, piloted the bill to legislation of the possession of two ounces (fifty-six grams) of ganja or marijuana as a non-arrestable offense. The bill also outlined that it will allow for permits, licenses and other authorizations which enables the establishment of a lawful industry for the therapeutic, medical and certified scientific uses of ganja in Jamaica. It is permitted for the cultivation of a maximum five plants in households and the Rastafari movement is allowed to use ganja for sacramental purposes.
Jamaican authorities have high hopes that Jamaica can be involved in health tourism, medical marijuana industry and developing weed-derived products. However, Golding described the reform as “long overdue” for the Caribbean island. In support, Anthony Hylton, Jamaica’s commerce minister, said that the potential marijuana industry held “great potential”.
The Babylon police used to abuse the Rastaman for smoking the herb, but the times are changing and the agitation has to stop,” Nature said, a Rastafarian of the Trench Town community, (Kingston, Jamaica) he enjoyed his pipe in light of the bill being passed.
Although this amendment of the marijuana legislation allows the legal possession of stipulated amounts of the drug, Peter Bunting, Jamaica’s national security minister, outlines that “The security forces will continue to rigorously enforce Jamaican law consistent with our international treaty obligations,” He also states that the new law does not create a ‘free-for-all’ in the possession, transport, cultivating and exporting of marijuana.
“We expect that Jamaica and all states party to the UN drug conventions will uphold their obligations, including a firm commitment to combating and dismantling criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking,” William Brownfield, United States assistant secretary for counter-narcotics affairs, said.
While Jamaica is making strides where marijuana legalization is concerned, other states in the United States, and some countries are also legalizing marijuana for recreational and personal use.
“Lots of people are unclear about what decriminalization really means. Nonetheless, we are happy about the progress made so far as it’s a major step forward,” said Delano Seiveright, director of the island’s Cannabis Commercial and Medicinal Taskforce.
Will officials legalize larger amounts of marijuana? Will this be seen in a positive light by the Jamaican society and Rastafarian movement and used as such?
What are your views as it regards this change?
By Alexandra Daley