JAMAICA: In an unlikely crisis for Jamaica, that has long been known for their pot, reggae, and Rastafarians (relating to a Jamaican religion), the country has been facing a crisis of Marijuana lately.
“It’s a cultural embarrassment,” stated Triston Thompson, chief opportunity explorer for Tacaya, a firm for the country’s nascent legal cannabis industry.
Due to heavy rains followed by drought, an increase in local consumption, a drop in the number of marijuana farmers, and strict COVID-19 measures, all together lead to the shortage of marijuana. Jamaica has the renowned and peculiar but largely illegal marijuana market that experts say is the ‘worst’.
Jamaica authorized a regulated medical marijuana industry and decriminalized small amounts of weed in 2015. People caught with two ounces (56 grams) or less of cannabis are supposed to pay a small fine without facing any criminal charges.
The island country also allows individuals to cultivate up to five plants, and Rastafarians are legally allowed to smoke ganja for sacramental purposes.
Heavy rains during last year’s hurricane, followed by drought caused marijuana fields to succumb to the country’s drastic climatic outbursts that summed up to tens of thousands of dollars in losses for farmers. “It destroyed everything,” said Daneyel Bozra, who grows marijuana in the southwest part of Jamaica.
Activists believe that the pandemic and a loosening of Jamaica’s marijuana laws has led to an increase in local consumption that has contributed to the scarcity. The shortage of marijuana has had an effect on tourists, as they have taken note, placing posts on travel websites about difficulties finding the drug.
Paul Burke, CEO of Jamaica’s Ganja Growers and Producers Association, said that the people are no longer fear being locked up as the government allows possession of small amounts. He said the stigmatization against ganja has diminished and more people are appreciating its therapeutic values, the need of which was felt more during the pandemic.
Burke also said that some traditional small farmers have stopped growing in frustration because meeting the requirements for the legal market is not affordable. Hence many farmers cultivate pot outside the legal system.
Jamaica’s Cannabis Licensing Authority however claims that there is no shortage of marijuana in the regulated industry. But farmers and activists say weed sold via legal dispensaries is out of reach for many given that it still costs five to 10 times more than a pot on the street.