Toker Travels: How To Buy Marijuana Legally In Jamaica
Depending on whom you ask, Red Stripe, Rum and Reggae are the main reasons to take a trip to Jamaica. But what they might not tell you, at least not where would-be saboteurs might be eavesdropping on the conversation, is that the best excuse to head down to the Caribbean island nation is to get your hands on some of what the Jamaicans refer to as the Ganja.
For those not privy to the lingo, we’re talking about cannabis, also known as marijuana, reefer, maui-wowie, Mr. Giggles, pot, weed, herb, smoke, grass, Mary Jane, the bubonic chronic, flower, and even broccoli. Yeah, admittedly we’re not fans of that last term either. We’re blaming the Millennials for that one.
Nevertheless, whatever the given nomenclature, marijuana has been a large part of the Jamaican culture for what seems like an eternity. But it has only been up until recently that the country began loosening its pot laws.
Although we could use this article to talk about how the Rastafarians have used cannabis for religious purposes for the better part of 100 years and how this group subscribes wholeheartedly to the philosophy that weed is the key to understanding God, the universe and one’s self, there are plenty of other resources dedicated to this particular subject. This text is not intended to be a history lesson.
Our time is better spent giving those movers-and-shakers wanting to swoop down on Jamaica over the Summer a crash course on the area’s marijuana laws and, more importantly, explain how to obtain the herb without getting hassled by law enforcement.
We’re not trying to discount the notion that smoking weed can be a spiritual experience. It can. Yet, we would like to accentuate the fact that it can also be loads of fun.
It was back in 2015 that Jamaica’s legislative forces put its stamp of approval on a measure legalizing marijuana for medicinal use. The law gives any visitor 18 and older the right to purchase cannabis as long as they have permission from a doctor. But unlike the stiff-collar medical marijuana programs we have in most parts of the United States, Jamaica’s does not come with a plethora of restrictions… or really, any restrictions whatsoever. The law is extremely vague, which is great for stoner tourists.
For example: If an American has a medical marijuana recommendation signed by a doctor in Washington D.C., they are permitted to purchase medical marijuana in Jamaica. The same goes for all medical marijuana states. They all have clout on Jamaican soil.
This tidbit of information has been mostly useless — until now. Not until recently was there anywhere in Jamaica for visiting cannabis enthusiasts to purchase weed through legal means. But now there is a place called Kaya Farms, which is located in St. Ann, right along the north coast. It is the nation’s first medical marijuana complex. The facility, which opened its doors in March, features a variety of attractions geared toward the promotion of cannabis wellness. It is home to the Kaya Herbhouse, Kaya Spa, Kaya Café and Kaya Tours. It even has smoking rooms available so that patrons can get stoned without leaving.
“Kaya is the first medical cannabis brand from the Caribbean, which combines a variety of partnerships and brands which complement each other,” the company’s website reads. “Its primary focus is on the health and wellness tourism industry.”
The last part of the quote (“wellness tourism industry”) is where you come in. Unlike some parts of the world, where the locals are ultra protective of their culture, Jamaica, at least where the government is concerned, wants people from all over the world to stop in for a toke or two. In fact, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said the country hopes its medical marijuana scene will “attract new visitors” and ultimately boost the local economy.
So, what if a U.S. doctor has not given you permission to smoke the ganja?
If you do not have a medical marijuana certification from a legal state, there is no need to worry. Kaya Farms has a doctor on site that can and will provide visitors with the necessary documentation to buy legal weed. And no, you will not need to fake Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer or any other severe or life-threatening condition to qualify. Simply discussing a history of anxiety, chronic pain or any other mild health affliction is probably going to do the trick. After all, Jamaica wants to sell you medical marijuana.
But it is important to point out that the Kaya doctor is only on location at select times. It is recommended that visitors call ahead to check for availability.
If you somehow blow it at Kaya Farms and manage to get tossed out on your ears without at least catching a buzz, there are a few other options.
Although marijuana is not legal for non-residents (that’s you) for any other reason than medicine, the law allows the locals (Jamaican residents) to grow up to five plants at home for personal use. So it is fairly easy to score a little bud on the black market.
What’s even better is marijuana has been decriminalized in Jamaica. So the worst that can happen if you get caught with a little illegal reefer (no more than 2 ounces) is get slapped with a small fine of around five bucks. There is no more flogging for cannabis users like the police used to do back in the old days. Just don’t try smuggling any amount of marijuana into the country. Jamaica still has very strict laws against drug trafficking. Trust us, you will not have any problem finding weed once you arrive. There is no need to bring so much as a joint.
Just play by the rules (as best you can) and your visit will work out famously for everyone involved.
Medical marijuana tourism is alive and well in Jamaica. Find out how to take advantage.
What you need to know about smoking weed legally in Jamaica
More than 40 years after reggae legend Peter Tosh sang ‘Legalize It’, Jamaica is finally recognizing the economic potential of its homegrown industry. Licensed medical dispensaries are popping up all over the island, but with the government opting for the decriminalization of ganja rather than full legalization, many questions remain. Here’s what you need to know about smoking weed legally in Jamaica.
Clearing the air
For many tourists, marijuana has long been an important if unspoken part of the Jamaica experience. Known universally in the country as ganja (or herb to Rastafari adherents), marijuana can seem as Jamaican as Bob Marley or Usain Bolt. Touts whisper in the ears of tourists straight off the cruise ship to offer them a smoke, while vendors openly sell pre-rolled spliffs at dancehall street parties in downtown Kingston.
Until recently, possession of even small amounts of ganja could land visitors in jail. But a wholesale revision of drugs laws has seen all that change. Jamaica has decided that ganja is very much part of the country’s brand and the potential tax revenues from a home-grown industry aren’t something to be passed up.
In 2015, the Jamaican government passed a series of important amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act, decriminalizing ganja and introducing licenses for its cultivation and sale. But decriminalization isn’t quite the same as full legalization, so what are the implications for visitors to Jamaica?
Know the law
Since 2015, possession of up to two ounces (57g) of ganja is no longer a criminal offense. Carrying this amount in public can still attract a fixed penalty fine similar to a parking ticket, of J$500 (around US$3), but no criminal record will result. People under the age of 18 caught in possession may also be referred to the National Council on Drug Abuse for counseling. Possession of larger amounts remains a criminal offense.
The possession fine does not apply to medical marijuana, including products purchased at a licensed dispensary. Possession of up to two ounces of weed by visitors for medical purposes is legal. Possession is also legal for sacramental purposes for followers of Rastafari.
Smoking ganja in a public place is prohibited, as it is with cigarettes, with a fixed fine of J$500. It is legal to smoke in licensed dispensaries, but smoking in private residences is no longer an offense.
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Medical marijuana dispensaries
Jamaica’s revised drug laws have allowed the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries, the first of which opened in 2018. Equal parts doctor’s clinic, Amsterdam-style coffee shop and hipster boutique, these are currently the only places where travelers to Jamaica can legally buy cannabis products.
At the time of writing, there are four dispensaries in Jamaica – Island Strains in Montego Bay, Epican in Kingston and Kaya in both Falmouth and St Ann’s Bay. To buy products, ID such as a passport or driving license is required (over 18 only), as well as proof of your medical need to buy ganja. This can take the form of a doctor’s prescription from home or a consultation with an on-site medic, although some dispensaries currently allow self-certification by the completion of a medical form.
A variety of products are offered, including marijuana buds, oil extracts and cartridges for vaping. The new dispensaries take ganja cultivation as seriously as wineries do their terroir. Nearly two dozen distinct Jamaican-grown Sativa, Indica and hybrid strains of the herb are grown on their own plantations for therapeutic and medicinal purposes.
The knowledgeable staff can talk you through their properties and relative concentrations of THC and CBD, the active ingredients in marijuana.
Don’t expect a cloud of smoke when you enter a dispensary – in-house smoking rooms are discreetly tucked away from the main consultation and purchase areas. Most also run their own cafes and juice bars, offering completely ganja-free refreshments.
Due to wider international restrictions on access to banking networks, businesses are cash-only – a reminder of the still-evolving legal situation in Jamaica and beyond.
At a dispensary, discuss with the staff your requirements as well as your previous experiences. Some strains are notoriously strong, particularly when taken through a traditional Jamaican steam chalice.
Outside the dispensaries, unlicensed vendors are taking advantage of the new permissiveness of the ganja laws, and it’s not unusual to see space cakes or similar edible items openly for sale in cafes or infused in butter in your lobster meal. Be careful, the strengths can vary widely.
Caution is also required if offered ganja plantation tours. Currently, these remain unlicensed and therefore illegal.
When leaving Jamaica it’s important to remember that it is strictly illegal to take any medical ganja product with you. Stick instead to the customs-friendly THC- and CBD-free hemp products sold at the dispensaries.
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The decriminalization of ganja has made smoking weed in Jamaica easier, but there are still a few things to avoid, here's how to do it.