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Jamaica to Decriminalize Ganja


Marijuana grows across the Caribbean nation and is intrinsic to the culture, but possession has been prosecutable for the last 100 years. That's about to change.

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Ganja and Jamaican culture

Ganja is a huge part of Jamaican culture. Photo via Shutterstock

Despite being the birthplace of Bob Marley and the globe’s ganja heartland, the Carribean nation made cannabis illegal more than a hundred years ago. But things are about to change. Today the Jamaican Minister of Justice Mark Golding announced the government’s plan to decriminalize “possession of small quantities of ganja for personal use, the smoking of ganja in private places and the use of ganja for medical-medicinal purposes.”

Under a formal amendment to Jamaica’s Dangerous Drugs Act, expected to be approved by parliament in September, possession of small quantities of pot will be punishable by a small fine. Also, criminal records for those convicted of minor marijuana possession will be expunged. “Too many of our young people have ended up with criminal convictions after being caught with a ‘spliff,’ something that has affected their ability to do things like get jobs and get visas to travel overseas,” Golding says.

Jamaica joins a growing trickle of countries—including Uruguay, Portugal, and parts of the US—taking steps toward legalizing or decriminalizing minor marijuana possession. This “represents a major breakthrough not just for Jamaica but for the Caribbean and the world at large,” says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “What made this possible was not just bold political leadership but also the dawning recognition that Jamaica and other Caribbean nations no longer need fear a harsh response from the US government when they change their marijuana policies.”