On the Jamaican black market, you can reportedly get a quarter of an ounce for a mere 20 dollars. With new medical cannabis laws and an emerging ganja tourism market, however, times may be changing. Cannabis has held vast cultural significance to people from the country for the better part of a century, yet, the nation only decriminalized the herb for the first time in 2015. That same year, the first Cannabis Cup was held on the island, celebrating some of the Caribbean’s top performing bud. Nevertheless, if you’re hoping to enjoy the country’s lax weed laws for yourself, there are a few key things to keep in mind before you book your plane ticket.
What a $20 Bag of Weed Looks Like in Jamaica
Where in most parts of the world one would expect $20 to get them a small bag of skunk, Jamaica is quite the opposite. In Jamaica, you can buy what looks like a pretty decent quarter ounce of some fine looking cannabis for $20. For example, the bag in the video below shows some pretty luscious buds with at top dark black and purple stems. This excellent coloration is a good sign of some high-quality flower. With no shortage of resin, the buds are also covered in exactly the kinds of little trichome crystals that you’re looking for in some strong weed.
In this video, the locals are describing the taste of the herb as that of smooth peanut butter. Their smoking apparatus even varies from electronic vaporizers to rice paper Zig Zags! However, be warned! Not all tourists are able to attain the same $20 monster bag, as locals aren’t so friendly with everybody hoping to get their hands on a smooth island stash. Well, according to this video, at least.
How To Buy Weed In Jamaica
In Jamaica, it is only legal for tourists to buy weed as a medical cannabis patient. So, if you’re hoping to do things the legal way, you’ll need to make some preparations. First, if you have a medical marijuana authorization, bring it along! This document will allow you legally purchase up to two ounces of herb while you are on the island.
If you don’t have an authorization, however, there’s no need to worry. A doctor at a wellness retreat like Kaya may be able to grant you permission to use the plant for medicinal or therapeutic purposes while you are in the country.
Jamaica legalized medical cannabis in 2015, but legal access points are only just now emerging. Kaya is one of the first, and the resort is part cafe and part wellness center. If you contact Kaya in advance of your trip, you may be able to set up an appointment to discuss your cannabis needs.
For those who cannot go the medical cannabis route, possession of up to two ounces of cannabis is considered a petty crime. While you may receive a small fine if you get caught buying on the black market, cannabis possession is no longer a criminal offense. The same cannot be said about drug smuggling, however. So, if you do happen to partake while you’re on the island, do not try to take any back home with you.
As a word of caution, it may be dangerous to accept cannabis offered to you on the street or by a taxi driver. If possible, connecting with a service like Kaya or procuring cannabis from a reputable source are your best bets for buying weed in Jamaica.
Best Jamaican Weed Strains
This island of Jamaica is known as a ganja paradise to many. Strains from the island, however, are distinct from strains found in other parts of the world. For example, you’re unlikely to find a 28 percent THC Girl Scout Cookies in Kingston. Yet, that doesn’t mean that Jamaican plants aren’t grown with the utmost craftsmanship.
According to High Times, the average Jamaican strain features just over 10 percent THC. This is more than enough to cause a psychoactive “high” and is arguably healthier than some of the uber-potent plants found in Western markets. To highlight some of the best of Jamaican genetics, here are a few strains worth knowing about:
One of the most famous strains to come out of Jamaica is the landrace Jamaican Sativa. This cultivar, however, is different from most other varieties that dominate the global cannabis trade. Marijuana itself is not native to Jamaica, but this herb has developed and adapted to the island over decades of cultivation and growth.
The plant tends to grow long and lanky, with thin buds that suit the needs of the tropical climate. The effects of the flower tend to be more uplifting and stimulating, perfect for getting things done on a hot day. Unfortunately, however, thanks to increased hybridization, finding a pure Jamaican Sativa strain these days may be few and far between.
Many Jamaican hybrids have been developed by breeders outside of the country. Cannabis seeds have been traded illicitly since the early 1900s and many large-scale breeders collect seeds from all over the world to create new plants. Jamaican Pearl is a famous strain created by Dutch breeders from Sensi Seeds.
A cross between Marley’s Collie and Early Pearl, the herb is a high-THC sativa known for its focused and creative vibe. Sadly to say, you might find more Jamaican Pearl outside of the island.
Bred by Eva Seeds, Jamaican Dream is another plant that has been bred using Jamaican genetics. A fruity flower with undertones of warm nut, this sativa plant is a sociable one. Ideal for parties and sharing with friends, the high-THC cultivar has an energetic personality that can quickly inspire a good mood.
Unlike many of the Jamaican strains out there, King’s Bread actually originated in Jamaica. Considered a Jamaican landrace strain, the flower has roots in the Blue Mountain region of the island. The herb is whispy, tall, and features a distinct tropical aroma. Like most Jamaican strains, this herb is considered a sativa with an uplifting and focused nature.
Jamaican Lion is a high-CBD sativa hybrid that first entered the scene in 2007. Considered mildly psychoactive, the plant boasts a one-to-one ratio of CBD to THC. This makes the strain an ideal choice for herbivores hoping to enjoy a little cannabis without feeling overly intoxicated. Calm and relaxing, Jamaican Lion has a knack for easing away stresses and inspiring a positive sense of well-being.
After the first High Times Cannabis Cup in Jamaica in 2015, the media company sampled 65 distinct Jamaican strains to analyze their THC content and garner more information about their genetics. Black Willie was one of 10 high-CBD strains found on the island, producing just over nine percent of the cannabinoid. The easygoing yet alerting flower was a Sativa entry from the Accompong region of the island. As High Times suggests, however, it is possible that plants from this area have already been hybridized with plants from other countries.
Lambs Bread: Bob Marley’s Favorite Strain
Rumor has it, Bob Marley’s favorite strain is Lambs Bread. Sometimes found as Lambs Breath, this funky green bud is a thoughtful sativa plant with a creative and uplifting vibe. Potent, contemporary versions of this plant can reach up to 25 percent THC. As with many true sativas, a strong earthy aroma resonates from this trichome-frosted flower. This earthiness is highlighted by a sweet floral quality and a sharp, pepper-like spiciness.
This plant is now considered a Jamaican landrace strain, meaning that it has developed unique adaptations to the region. However, the lanky cultivar can be found in many cannabis-friendly regions of the world. It’s not uncommon to stumble upon a Lamb’s Bread in an Amsterdam coffee shop or Californian dispensary. Though, whether or not these samples hold any resemblance to the true Jamaican Lamb’s Bread is yet to be determined.
Weed Laws in Jamaica
Anyone who loves cannabis likely knows that the herb has a way of inspiring a profound sense of calm. In Jamaica, however, decades of tension between those in power and common citizens means that hundreds of people have lost their lives in an effort to access this tranquility.
Though cannabis has been a part of Jamaican culture for decades, the island has a dark history regarding the plant. Perhaps the darkest moment came in 1963, during the Coral Gardens Massacre. The incident kicked off after a Rastafarian was shot by a local property owner. In retaliation, the victim and fellow recruits set fire to a gas station.
Needless to say, a police response was imminent. However, instead of simply prosecuting those directly involved in the incident, the Jamaican Government, led by Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante, dispatched a hoard of local police to the area. In total, law enforcement unfairly rounded up more than 150 Rastafarians in the area.
“Bring in all Rastas, dead or alive,” the Prime Minister reportedly said.
Whether or not Rastafari individuals were responsible for the initial uprising still remains a point of contention. However, the government took the opportunity to arrest more than 400 Rastafarians in the time following the incident. Dreadlocks were cut and mandatory minimum criminal sentences for even trace amounts of cannabis were enacted. If a Rasta was caught with cannabis, they risked spending up to 18 months in prison.
The violence and mass arrests targeting cannabis consumers in Jamaica is a history that should never be forgotten. However, current cannabis policy is a far cry from the oppression of the 1960s.
Here’s How Much Weed You Can Buy in Jamaica
In 2015, the country legalized medical cannabis. Now, anyone over the age of 18 is free to purchase the herb, regardless of whether or not they are Jamaican residents. So, if you have a medical cannabis card in California, that recommendation means that you are a-okay to buy marijuana in Jamaica. Here’s what is legal under Jamaica’s new cannabis policy:
- Possession of up to two ounces is a petty crime that will not go on your criminal record.
- Jamaicans can cultivate up to five plants for personal use without prosecution.
- Cannabis use for religious purposes is not criminalized.
- Tourists and Jamaicans alike can apply for a permit to purchase medical cannabis.
While before two ounces of cannabis could land a Jamaican in prison for life, it is now a simple ticketed offense.
Unlike the Netherlands, which decriminalized cannabis consumption in 1976, Jamaica’s policy takes a health and wellness approach to cannabis. While marijuana tourism in the Netherlands centers on coffeeshop culture and recreational consumption, new Jamaican brands are hoping that cannabis reform will attract a new health and wellness tourism scene.
Things aren’t all flowers and kindness, however. Growing recreational cannabis is still illegal in the country. The government does have a licensing program that allows farmers to apply to cultivate medical marijuana, but licenses are only available to those with serious cash. In a country where over 25 percent of youths are unemployed, breaking into the island’s new legal weed business may seem more like a dream than reality.
History of Rasta
Bob Marley’s music may have made Rastafarianism popular, but the peaceful religion did not start out as a global pop-culture phenomenon. A fascinating mix of politics, rebellion, culture, and spirituality, Rastafarianism found its humble beginnings among African Jamaicans hoping to free themselves from oppression and connect with the divine.
Yet, as the religion gained popularity, the meaning of Rasta has evolved. Rastafarianism is still practiced devoutly by many around the world, but traces of Rastafari ideals have made their way into the hearts and souls of Marley lovers everywhere. In the present day, what started as a movement to reunify Africans abroad with their mother country has evolved into a message of profound peace, love, and spiritual healing.
The Beginnings of Rasta
Members of the weed-toating Rastafari religion may seem like a joke to many in the Western world, however, the peaceful denomination has been a predominant aspect of Jamaican culture for nearly 100 years. The religion has its roots in the 1930s, which was a time of imminent turmoil in the island country.
Jamaica had been a British colony for the previous 70 years, yet an agricultural crisis and global depression caused skyrocketing unemployment rates throughout the decade. The result was escalating tensions among Jamaican citizens which finally erupted in violence in 1938.
It is from this environment that Rastafari sprang. While dreadlocks, Reggae music, and ganja are the token signifiers of Rastafari to many outsiders, the religion is far more than the aesthetic. Rooted in beliefs that the divine resides partially within ourselves, Rastafari is as much of a social movement as it is spiritual doctrine.
Spiritual practice, however, remains central to the Rastafari denomination which pays tribute to a single God, Jah. Jah stems from the word “Jahova”, which is the Hebrew name for God in the Old Testament of the Bible. While deeply religious, the movement offered a strongly Afro-positive identity after centuries lost to the slave trade and colonial rule.
The Rasta movement took off in Jamaica after a prophecy made by popular political reformer Marcus Garvey, who led an organization called the Universal Negro Improvement Association. The organization sought to reconnect Africans in Jamaica and elsewhere with their land of origin. To the Rastafari, that land Ethiopia. Ethiopia is both the promise land and is representative of greater Africa.
In Rastafari tradition, Ethiopia is also the home of the Massiah. This notion was put forward by a famous prophecy from Garvy, who proclaimed: “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be the Redeemer.”
Shortly after Garvey made this statement, Haile Selassie I became the Emperor of Ethiopia. After taking reign, Selassie earned the title of Massiah among many Rastafarians. The idea was further propagated in Jamaica by activist Leonard P. Howell in 1935, marking the official birth of the Rastafarian movement.
Marijuana and Rasta
“The more you accept herb is the more you accept Rastafari,” says Bob Marley, the most famous Rastafarian in the world. During his life, Marley was an advocate for the spiritual powers of cannabis. “When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself,” he said. Marley’s belief in the rejuvenating powers of cannabis continues to inspire many. “Herb is the healing of the nation.”
It was Marley who linked cannabis to Rastafari culture in the eyes of the mass public. However, Howell was the first man to connect ganja to the Rastafarian movement.
Prior to his activism in Jamaica in the 1930s, Howell lived in New York and was an avid follower of Garvey’s movement. In the United States, Howell operated Ganja houses in Harlem. Yet, he was eventually deported from New York and returned to Jamaica, taking Garvey’s message with him. By 1940, the preacher had developed a following of individuals who opted to adopt a vegetarian diet and began to rigorously cultivate cannabis.
Rastafarians reportedly use cannabis during spiritual gatherings as a meditation aid. According to Howell, the herb is endowed with divine properties, evidence of which can be found in the Bible. One example Howell presented includes Psalm 104:14, which states: “He causeth the grass for the cattle, and herb for the services of man.”
Yet, contrary to popular belief, cannabis is not native to Jamaica. In fact, the herb has only resided on the island for the past 150 years. The was likely first brought to the island in the mid-1800s by East Indian laborers, who were shipped to British colonies in the West after the abolition of slavery in 1833.
Perhaps due to growing concerns that the herb was a little too popular among the general public, the plant was made illegal by Jamaican elites for the first time in 1913. The Rastafarians took their chances, however. Howell was arrested for selling and cultivating ganja in Jamaica in 1941. His arrest is perhaps what inspired many Rastafarians to grow dreadlocks in solidarity, as they awaited his release.
As the Rastafari movement grew, however, so did restrictions on cannabis. Political powers continued to tighten regulations on the herb throughout the 1940s to the 1960s. Incidentally, this nearly three-decade period was dotted with severe civil, economic, and political distress. It was in this environment, rife with tension, that the legendary Bob Marley rose to fame.
How Bob Marley Changed Jamaica
Marley and the Whalers were responsible for transforming Jamaica’s famous Ska beats into the steady Reggae sound the country is so famous for today. The island of Jamaica contains just under three million people, yet Marley’s music put Jamaican culture, history, and social issues on the global radar.
The birth of a new genre, however, is not Marley’s greatest accomplishment. The height of his career came during an astonishingly low point in Jamaican history. Extreme violence erupted in the capital, Kingston, fueled by political tensions and rival gangs. Shootouts in the streets were commonplace and the country found itself in the immersed in of one of the worst periods of civil unrest that it had seen yet.
Marley was right in the middle.
One tragic night in 1976, the peaceful performer was ambushed and shot just two days before his own concert, Smile Jamaica. The gunshot grazed his chest and injured his arm. The assassination attempt was perhaps an effort to stop the upcoming concert, which was sponsored by the Prime Minister in an effort to ease the political tensions that were spurring so much destruction throughout the capital.
As a true hero, Marley performed in front of a crowd of 80,000 people in spite of his injuries. “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off,” he said. “How can I?”
The concert was a huge success. ‘There was no violence at all,” filmmaker David Silver told Rolling Stone. Silver attended the concert. “Everybody was just swinging with the music and Bob…Bob was like some wild creature – he was prancing and jumping like some crazy shaman. I’ve never seen him like that.” It is this strength of character that transformed Marley into a national symbol of peace.
Marley’s music was revolutionary for Jamaica, but, it also connected millions around the globe to openhearted Rastafari ideals. His Rastafari beliefs resonate in his most famous songs, including the legendary One Love, which was dubbed “Song of the Millennium” by BBC.
The King of Reggae had a knack for using lyric to question oppression, yet his lighthearted tones made it easy for listeners to adopt a peaceful attitude and good nature. As he sings in One Love,
Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (One Love!)
There is one question I’d really love to ask (One Heart!)
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own beliefs?
Through his music, Marley not only united citizens of his country but gathered lost souls around the world around a central, peaceful message. A true rockstar, if one has ever existed.