Is smoking ganja legal in Jamaica?
Ganja has long been an important part of Jamaican culture. It is also one of the fastest associations that many people make with the island – along with reggae, Rastafarianism, Bob Marley and Usain Bolt. Ganja has also been a part of the tourist experience in Jamaica since many visitors come with the expectation of finding it– which they often do from illegal peddlers just about everywhere – a redcap at the airport, taxi driver, hotel worker or a guy on the beach. However, despite this ubiquity, you may be astonished to discover that smoking ganja has never been legal on the island. The cops mostly just looked the other way, especially for tourists. However, the situation is now dramatically different because of revisions to the island’s drug laws passed in 2015.
YES! Smoking ganja is legal
You can buy weed legally at any of the herb houses – the local name for dispensaries – that are popping up all over the island. You are eligible to purchase with a prescription from a doctor in your home country or by just telling the herb house medical person that you intend to use your ganja for a “therapeutic purpose”. So, although ganja is technically legal only for medical purposes, any adult over 18 can purchase it. Here are a couple of things to know:
- It is legal to possess up to two ounces (57g)
- Smoking ganja in public is prohibited and carries a fine of J$500 (about US$3). Like (say) a parking ticket, this fine is an administrative matter and does not result in a criminal record.
Getting a prescription is as easy as pie
All the herb houses have medical personnel for the express purpose of doing this. And no, you do not have to fake multiple sclerosis, cancer or any similar life-threatening condition to qualify. As mentioned previously, you just need to declare that you plan to use the weed for “therapeutic purposes.” The process is very quick and usually takes no more than a few minutes. And, don’t sweat it; they want to sell you the weed! A few other things to note:
- Medical staff may be onsite only at select times so, it is wise to call ahead
- No local address, medical record or physical exam is required
- Some herb houses may charge a small fee – about US$10
- It is a cash business – Jamaica’s herb houses have the same banking problem as their US counterparts
The Jamaican herb houses
Jamaica’s herb houses are nothing like the sterile dispensaries with which you may be familiar. They are equal parts medical clinic, Amsterdam-style coffee shop, hipster boutique and spa with elegant smoking rooms discreetly tucked away from the main consultation and purchasing areas. You’ll find a broad variety of products and very knowledgeable staff that will talk you through the properties of their distinctly Jamaican strains. And, of course, you don’t have to depart after making your purchases; you may want to linger, consume some of your stash and mingle.
Smoking ganja in Jamaica is fine just don’t try to leave with any!
You are sure to enjoy Jamaica’s liberal attitude towards marijuana. But, please do not try to enter or depart the island with any. Consume all your ganja before leaving! The island has strict drug trafficking laws and they do enforce them.