For most of us, a Jamaican vacation involves sandy beaches, reggae music, rum and ganja. The first three, of course, are legal for tourists to enjoy. But cannabis, although tolerated, has never been allowed legally. But that may soon change.
A special task force has been established to examine the viability of allowing and promoting cannabis tourism on the island nation in the middle of the Caribbean.
Jamaica has been known for years as a cannabis-friendly travel destination. Despite the popularity of the herb among tourists — and the nation’s large Rastafarian community — the government has long fought the global reputation as a hub for ganja. After years of futility enforcing draconian laws and spending money on education campaigns, the government is now evaluating a new direction.
Ed Bartlett, the nation’s former minister of tourism, said the government will take a serious look at officially opening the island up to cannabis enthusiasts.
According to Bartlett, an area of the southwestern coast of Jamaica would be the home of tourism area dedicated to cannabis lovers.
“We are going to designate an area and, while I am not creating the policy, I am indicating that within that framework there is going to be discussions,” Bartlett said.
The policy change makes perfect sense. Jamaica traditionally has had one of the lowest economic growth rates in the developing world, so national leaders are looking at new ways to boost the economy.
Instead of fighting the image and its legacy, Jamaica has decided to embrace it. “Jamaica for so long has been associated with this plant,” Jamaican businessman Doug Gordon told the New York Times. “Now, it’s a business, an opportunity, one that can change the future of this country through jobs and income.”
As the New York Times reported last year:
Having watched states like Colorado and California generate billions of dollars from marijuana, Jamaica has decided to embrace its herbaceous brand.
Rather than arresting and shunning the country’s Rasta population, the Jamaican authorities will leverage it. Beyond decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana last year, Jamaica has legalized the use of medical marijuana, with its ultimate sights set on “wellness tourism” and the font of money it could bring.
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Will the struggling economy see a boost from cannabis?
“Where the real market is, and where the real money is, remains to be seen,” said Mark Golding, the former minister of justice who developed the legislation to permit medical marijuana production in Jamaica. “We are all just preparing for it.”