The island that is often known by foreigners as a haven for pot smokers is experiencing a shortage of marijuana due to heavy rains followed by an extended drought. Although still technically illegal, marijuana in Jamaica is typically bountiful and inexpensive due to lax enforcement and a culture that promotes the drug’s usage.
COVID-19 Partially To Blame
Although the heavy rains destroyed many of the viable marijuana fields, Jamaican marijuana farmers have reported difficulty tending to their existing plants as a result of a nationwide curfew, implemented to fight the spread of COVID-19, that has limited the time in which they can harvest their crops. The curfew has had the effect of prohibiting marijuana farmers from working on their fields at night as is the custom on the island. Furthermore, the restrictions related to COVID-19 that have been placed on Jamaican businesses and restaurants have caused an uptick in the local consumption of marijuana, as many residents are stuck at home unable to enjoy the island’s typical offerings. Tourists have also taken note of the shortage, posting to travel websites detailing their difficulty in finding the drug.
Jamaica’s Complicated Relationship With Marijuana
Possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized in 2015, and the law allows for residents to have up to five plants for personal use. Jamaicans caught with amounts of marijuana above the legal threshold face sanctions and fines of up to $500 JMD.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in Jamaica, with the first medical dispensaries opening in 2018. Since the legalization of medical marijuana, the country has authorized 29 cultivators and issued 73 licenses for transportation, retail, processing, and other activities. Still, many residents eschew the medical marijuana market due to its high cost, which can be as much as five times more expensive than marijuana sold on the street. Ironically, the medical marijuana market in Jamaica reports no shortage of the drug.
Importation From The U.S.
U.S. states such as Oregon, California and Washington have reported surpluses of marijuana in recent years. Lawmakers in some of those states have introduced legislation to enable the exportation of the drug to other states and countries that are experiencing shortages. Still, a change in how the federal government treats marijuana will most likely be necessary to allow the importation and exportation of the drug. With a new administration now in the White House, some federal marijuana advocates predict that a change in how marijuana is classified is only a matter of time. Still, opposition remains strong among a contingent of lawmakers, despite more than half of U.S. states legalizing marijuana in some form.