On Friday, the Jamaica Senate finally passed a new marijuana law that will change the social landscape of the small Caribbean nation forever.
Historic legislation that makes the possession of two ounces or less of marijuana a non-arrestable, but ticketable offense was passed after a five-hour debate in parliament.
Meanwhile, the small Caribbean nation celebrated what would have been the 70th birthday of a global icon. That global icon, Bob Marley, is easily recognizable by his long steely dreadlocks, bright smile, and, of course, music that has penetrated the four corners of the earth.
Of course, Bob Marley and Jamaica are widely known for their connections to marijuana. While Marley was a public advocate for the plant, Jamaica was not.
It may come to the surprise of many, but marijuana, affectionately known as ganja by the locals, was never legal in Jamaica. Even more surprising, marijuana is just as taboo in Jamaica as it is in other western countries such as the U.S., Canada, and England.
In 2013, statistics compiled by the Criminal Records Office of the Jamaica Constabulary Force for the period January to July revealed that 4,367 persons were convicted for drug-related offences. Most of whom were arrested just for simple possession of marijuana.
Just last year, the debate over the legality of marijuana once again made local headlines when 31-year-old Mario Deane was beaten to death in his jail cell following an arrest for possession of a small marijuana cigarette.
The new marijuana legislation would allow for a scheme of licences, permits, and other authorizations which enable the establishment of a lawful, regulated industry for marijuana for medical, therapeutic, and scientific purposes. It is set to be debated by members of the House of Representatives in the new Parliamentary year, which is set to start next week with discussion on the Budget.
The new marijuana law has been criticized for being prejudice to persons outside the Rastafarian faith. Senator and senior lawyer KD Knight asked why should the cultivation of marijuana is “limited to someone of the Rastafarian faith?”
Even so, the Senate heard Justice Minister Mark Golding embark on a landmark marijuana bill that could pave the way for full decriminalization or even the full legality of recreational marijuana.
With that we are reminded of a famous quote by Bob Marley.
“Herb, herb is a plant. I mean herbs are good for everything. Why, why these people who want to do so much good for everyone, who call themselves governments and this and that. Why them say you must not use the herb?”
The passing of the landmark marijuana law merely coincided with the 70th Birthday of Bob Marley and was not done so deliberately.
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