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Jamaica Passes Landmark Decriminalization Bill on Bob Marley’s Birthday

Update: This law passed in Jamaica's parliament on February 26, 2015.

On the day we commemorated the 70th birthday of the Godfather of Ganja, Bob Marley, Jamaica’s Senate passed a landmark bill to decriminalize the use and possession of cannabis and outright legalize the use of cannabis for medical or religious reasons. This amendment is the first of its kind, as there has never been legislation that specifically allows the use of cannabis for religious reasons. However, one of the criticisms of the bill is that it is solely up to the Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding, who authored the law, to make decisions on who will be allowed to cultivate cannabis for religious reasons.

An amendment to Jamaica's Dangerous Drugs Act, the new law still carries a ban on the public use of cannabis (or “ganja,” as it is referred to in Jamaican legislation), but possession of small amounts of cannabis – two ounces or less – is now punishable by a penalty ticket instead of a criminal charge. The legislation also allows for a new, regulated market with licenses, permits, and authorizations of cannabis for medical, therapeutic, and scientific research purposes.

The Jamaican Senate claimed that it was only coincidence that the bill was debated and passed on the birthday of Bob Marley, but what joyful serendipity – Smile, Jamaica!

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Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

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