Whole new set of rules
In April 2015, the government, dominated by the center-left People’s National Party, passed a “ganja law” that breaks with the country’s repressive past.
But it’s a somewhat complicated law. For ordinary citizens, marijuana is partly decriminalized: everyone can cultivate up to five plants at home, store away their harvest and consume it, at home, alone or with their friends and family. Transporting the substance, however, is prohibited: if a person carries around less than two ounces (about 56 grams), they can be fined 500 Jamaican dollars (about $4.50), with no legal consequences. Any more than that, however, is considered trafficking and can result in criminal charges.
The legislation contains another revolutionary innovation: it makes an exception for Rastafarians, who will be allowed to grow and transport their marijuana with no limits on quantity, provided they don’t sell it and only consume it in their places of worship. For festivals or concerts, they will have to request temporary authorizations.
The government also wants to favor the creation of an industry of cannabis-based medicinal products (pills, oils, inhalations, creams, nutrients), with the hope of exporting them to places like Canada, Israel or Northern Europe, where their curative virtues are acknowledged. To that effect, it has created a state agency in charge of distributing growing permits to private companies, with a one-acre limit (about 4,000 square meters) per permit.
As of July, there were already many candidates, local and foreign, but the agency hadn’t yet begun the selection process. Only local universities obtained permits to carry out pharmacological research. Some investors, nevertheless, are determined to go forward with the idea — no matter what.
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