Jamaica Set to Finally Decriminalize Cannabis
Although marijuana plays a central part of Rastafarianism, and in turn Rastafarianism plays a large role in marijuana culture, our beloved green bud is actually illegal in Jamaica. But all that is about to change. In a very progressive move, Jamaican lawmakers have drafted legislation that will see an end to prohibition, decriminalising cannabis for religious and medical use, as well as making possession of up to 57 grams a petty offence.
It is a move that the Jamaican government has tried before, but was torpedoed over fears of an international backlash. Fortunately, thanks to the easing of marijuana related laws in the US, Jamaica now feels it is safe for them to follow suit without fear of reprisal. It means that the USA can no longer threaten Jamaica with economic sanctions, as they have before, should they go ahead and decriminalise weed - as the hypocrisy would cause more controversy than the act of decriminalisation in the first place.
It is great news for all, and particularly for the Rastas out there, as marijuana is considered the ‘holy herb’ of their religion. As things currently stand, Rastas have to keep one eye over their shoulder when smoking weed, for fear of prosecution. When the laws pass, they will no longer face persecution for practicing their religious beliefs.
As you can probably imagine, the news has been met with a lot of enthusiasm by drug policy reform groups. Ethan Nadelmann, spokesman for the Drug Policy Alliance, said it was a “significant step forward." And that, "It's both noteworthy in that Jamaica is reforming policies on possession, religious use and medical use at more or less the same time, and politically important in providing leadership in the Caribbean."
Not only will this move help boost the Jamaican economy, it will also remove some of the power from organised gangs, as well as allowing police to refocus their efforts on black market trade – something that was iterated as a key priority after the move.
Although not in place yet, this new legislation is set to be enforced by the end of 2014. Let us hope things go smoothly, and that the Jamaican society can prosper as a result. The world will be watching.