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Jamaica Mulls Loosening Marijuana Laws

Despite finally making moves to decriminalize pot, conservative Jamaicans have expressed outrage over what they still consider to be a dangerous drug.

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By McCarton Ackerman

03/10/14

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Cannabis has not been legal in Jamaica for over 100 years, but the country is pushing forward with plans to decriminalize marijuana by the end of the 2014. Jamaica has launched its first medical marijuana company and prospects of pot tourism could turn the third-world nation into a major money maker.

Last October, Raymond Pryce, Deputy General Secretary of People’s National Party, pushed forward a motion in Parliament for the decriminalization of marijuana for personal and medical use, as well as for religious purposes. Shortly after, a new private company called Medicanja was listed on the Jamaican stock exchange. Dr. Henry Lowe, a leader in THC studies for medical purposes, is running the company with the University of West Indies and the University of Technology jointly funding the facility. They plan to produce CBD-based medical products that fall under legally acceptable medicinal use.

The plans for legalization have sparked outrage among more conservative Jamaicans, who still believe that marijuana is a harmful drug. "When the THC acts on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, it effects perception, it causes some people to have hallucinations. It effects memory, concentration, libido...and I’m sure any Jamaican you ask, when they’re in school, the guys who were smoking in class did not do well in their schoolwork,” said Dr. Dayton Campbell, a member of Parliament. “There is clear evidence that it effects the development of the brain. I believe that if it becomes more readily available, more [people] will abuse it."

Jamaica is also considering the potential legal ramifications for legalizing the drug. From January to June 2013, seventy-one percent of those committed in Kingston magistrate court were there for simple cannabis possession. Pryce said that this “affects intergenerational wealth and the ability of the individual to advance in society.”

But with the medical marijuana industry raking in $2.6 billion per year and Colorado’s economy booming from pot tourism and “ganjapreneurs,” many Jamaicans are asking why they aren’t profiting off their pot which many consider to be the best in the world. Marijuana activist and attorney Lord Anthony Gifford said that “the potential for Jamaica to market ganja, to make money out of it, to have tourists smoke it and come here and enjoy it...they are so enormous that I think we should go the whole hog [and legalize it] as Uruguay is doing.”

Check out a piece on Medicanja from HBO's VICE:

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