KINGSTON, JAMAICA — Jamaica’s Senate approved a bill Friday — the 70th birthday of famed musician Bob Marley — that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and legalize cannabis for religious, medical, scientific and therapeutic purposes.
The Senate debated for nearly five hours before voting in favor of the proposal, which was approved by the Jamaican cabinet last month.
“We need to position ourselves to take advantage of the significant economic opportunities offered by this emerging industry,” says Justice Minister Mark Golding, who introduced the legislation.
“It is time that Jamaica capitalizes on the plant that has been part of our culture for generations,” added Deputy Senate President Angela Brown Burke, a legalization advocate who is also the mayor of Jamaica’s capital of Kingston.
The proposal would make the possession of two ounces or less, of marijuana — or ganja, as it is commonly referred to locally — a non-arrestable, but ticketable, offense on an island where cannabis use has long been pervasive but prohibited. As a petty offense, simple possession of cannabis would not result in a criminal record.
Private cultivation of five or fewer plants on any premises would also be permitted.
It would also establish a licensing authority to establish regulations for the cultivation, production and distribution of cannabis for medical, scientific and therapeutic purposes.
Tourists who are prescribed medical marijuana abroad could apply for permits authorizing them to legally buy small amounts of Jamaican ganja while visiting the island.
The bill will now be considered by members of the House of Representatives in the upcoming parliamentary year, which is expected to begin later this month. It is expected to pass, and is supported by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.