Jamaica Readies for Economic Benefit from Marijuana


In the past, Jamaica has tried to distance itself from its reputation as a ganja paradise, enforcing severe drug laws and spending considerable amounts of resources on educating the public about the negative effects of the herb. However, its position as a major supplier of illicit weed to the United States and its global image as a ganja-loving nation promulgated by reggae legend Bob Marley and his Rastafarian faith, could not be overcome. Now, Jamaican leaders are seeing great opportunities to develop the nation via the once-reviled crop. After seeing how states like California and Colorado are taking in billions of dollars from marijuana, Jamaican authorities have decided to leverage the Rasta population instead of arresting and shunning it. Jamaica has already decriminalized possession of small amounts of the herb and also legalized the use of medical marijuana. Ultimately, the country plans to encourage “wellness tourism” and the revenues it could generate. The economic opportunity presented by marijuana could bring positive results to a country with one of the lowest rates of economic growth among developing nations. Jamaica has tried to overcome its poor economic performance by implementing fiscal austerity, prudent macroeconomic policy, and making the area more attractive to investors. Now it is adding ganja to the mix. The new approach has brought several segments of Jamaican society together, including government representatives, business leaders, pot farmers, and Rastafarians. The plant bridges the gaps between these groups, says First Man, a Rasta leader, who made his remarks at the first CanEx conference. The gathering brought together disparate groups to determine how Jamaica can effectively utilize its ganja production without violating international law. While it is uncertain how the marijuana industry will evolve, since a United Nations convention requires nations to restrict the production, trade, use and possession of drugs, continues to prohibit the outright legalization of the drug. However, legalization activities in the US and Canada continue to move toward allowing its use at the same time, encouraging Jamaica to get in on the action as well.

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Stephanie Korney