Jamaica’s marijuana laws will soon undergo drastic changes that are expected to pave the way for a legal industry surrounding cannabis.
Jamaican Justice Minister Mark Golding announced last Thursday a proposal to decriminalize personal possession of marijuana, known locally as ‘ganja.’ The proposal would also allow the plant’s use in medical, scientific and religious settings.
Along with reducing the burden of harsh marijuana penalties, the new laws aim to “secure the economic and medical benefits of ganja.”
According to Golding, a framework is being established that “will allow the emergence of medical ganja and industrial hemp industries in Jamaica.”
“It is becoming widely accepted across the world that ganja has therapeutic use,” he explained.
The changes were approved by the Prime Minister’s cabinet on June 2 and will be formally implemented this summer.
In his announcement, Golding noted that reform was long overdue for both recreational and medical use of marijuana. While widely available in the country, marijuana for any purpose remains banned to this day.
But the Justice Minister acknowledged that marijuana can help with a long list of ailments.
“Medical and scientific research on ganja has shown it to be effective in reducing nausea and vomiting, stimulating appetite, promoting weight gain and the treatment of glaucoma. Ganja has been used to treat spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, relief of migraine headaches, depression, seizures, insomnia and chronic pain,” said Golding.
“It is not only wrong but also foolhardy to continue with a law that makes it illegal to possess ganja and its derivatives for medicinal purposes,” he continued.
Although lawmakers have grappled with marijuana reform since the 70s, support for the idea has picked up recently. Indeed, as medical marijuana gains momentum around the world, many in Jamaica are urging the country not to be left behind.
Late last year, Jamaica’s Health Minister announced his support for the use of marijuana as a medicine. Since then, companies from Canada, the U.S. and Israel have sought research and development partnerships with local firms.
Dr. Henry Lowe, one of Jamaica’s most prominent scientists, spent decades studying the therapeutic benefits of marijuana and recently founded the country’s first medical marijuana company.
Dr. Lowe sees Jamaica as a strong contender for the global cannabis market and believes that commercializing the plant’s medical applications could ultimately “transform Jamaica’s fledgling economy.”