KINGSTON, JAMAICA. 17 April, 2015 — Decriminalization came too late for young men like Garfield Coburn, Mario Deane and Oshane Dothlyn,victims of deadly use of force by Jamaican police. An amendment to Jamaica’s Dangerous Drug Act took effect Wednesday, establishing licensing and protections for medical, scientific and religious use of cannabis and making possession non-criminal. Reform proponents hope will now be harder to use possession of marijuana as an excuse to brutalize and arrest young, marginalized Jamaican males.
Possession of two ounces or less of cannabis is now a ticketable offense, with a fine equivalent to roughly US$5. Offenders will not face arrest or a criminal record. The new law also applies to tourists visiting Jamaica, those prescribed medical marijuana in their home country can obtain a permit to buy up to 2 ounces of local cannabis.
Dr. K’Adamawe K’nife, lecturer at the Mona School of Business & Management at the University of the West Indies says reform will have to go further to create a profitable industry for Jamaica, “…integrating ganja use into tourism and wellness, because if you look at the ganja cafés and dispensaries in Europe and the United States, ganja is not just sold there for smoking, they have food and drinks.”
The sacramental reform was described by Justice Minister Mark Golding as “long overdue” on the island, where “ganja” (local vernacular for cannabis) is used regularly by members of the Rastafarian movement and ordinary Jamaicans.