Here is something I was shocked to find out:
Weed is illegal in Jamaica. Seriously.
I never would have thought that. Marijuana is as synonymous with Jamaica as Reggae Music. As a matter of fact, so much reggae is about about weed, I would have thought it was the national flower.
Peter Tosh sang about it.
Entire albums are dedicated to it.
I was convinced it was legal in Jamaica. There was no way you could have convinced me otherwise. When I think of Jamaica, I think of the following:
- jerk chicken
- Red Stripe
Throughout this year, the Jamaican government has been meeting, debating, and considering legalizing marijuana. According to a USA Today article in June,
The motivation behind the legal pot drive is largely economic. Jamaica's economy has suffered from slow growth, high unemployment (now 13.4%) and high debt for the past two decades, according to the World Bank.
Jamaica, where about 37,066 acres grow marijuana, is the largest Caribbean supplier of pot to the USA and other Caribbean islands, according to the State Department's 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
By the end of September, the Jamaican government had drafted legislation to decriminalize the drug, according to the BBC. The Denver Post reported recently that the government of Jamaica had even contacted a Denver-based firm to help with the legality of the issue.
Interestingly, the trend to legalize weed in other countries has "sparked" the change in legal attitudes in Jamaica.
Previous efforts to decriminalize marijuana, or "ganja" as it is largely known in Jamaica, failed to advance because Jamaican officials feared they would violate international treaties and bring sanctions from Washington. But those concerns have eased now that a number of nations and some U.S. states have relaxed marijuana laws.
But my biggest concern is how the Jamaican legal system will compensate those who might have been unjustly prosecuted for defending their herb fields in the days when marijuana was illegal.
I am thinking particularly of a certain grower who was constantly harassed by Sheriff John Brown. After the grower was threatened with violence for an unknown reason, he did what anyone in his position would do: he shot first. While he contritely admitted to killing the sheriff, he claimed to have no part in the death of the deputy.
With weed soon to be legal, will the Jamaican government apologize for its terrorizing behavior towards growers? Will growers be forgiven for shooting sheriffs?