The Jamaican Ministry of Health and Wellness is harnessing the power of public transport advertising and the internet to banish negative misconceptions surrounding cannabis. Known as the “Good Ganja Sense” campaign, the initiative is even accompanied by a song inspired by the potential of using cannabis to “boost lives.”
A medical cannabis industry is unfurling across the sun-soaked Caribbean nation, where health leaders have found satisfactory evidence to suggest that a legal market may contribute to the economy through agriculture, entrepreneurship, and scientific research. “Burn ganja myths: not everything you hear about ganja is true” and “Go with the science: our scientists are learning more about ganja” are two slogans that have been recently featured on many of Jamaica’s public buses as part of the campaign.
“Ganja will no longer be underpinned by what has been passed down through oral traditions and old tales, but fact-based information that is now available at the fingertips,” said the head of the ministry, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn. She added:
“We know very well too, the ills and thrills associated with the internet—much false health information has been spread far and wide. But now, with science and technology combined, Jamaica has in its arsenal a resource that puts into context, legislation, medical information, and an overall evidence-based dialogue that can change the attitudes and behaviors that Jamaicans hold towards ganja.”
Additionally, misconceptions surrounding cannabis are featured on the campaign’s website. Some examples include myths that the plant may reduce sperm count, cause consumers to become lazy, and act as a “gateway” to other types of drugs.
A rumor that cancer also causes fatal overdose is also debunked on Jamaica’s Good Ganja Sense campaign website. Specifically, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency factsheet states that the drug is incapable of causing death by overconsumption. “Thanks DEA. The experts have spoken,” the site says.
Numerous countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Japan, and the Philippines, have waged a war against the cannabis plant over the years. Jamaica, on the other hand, has progressively been inching closer to complete cannabis reform.
Medical cannabis in Jamaica was legalized in 2015 under the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act. It took three more years following the law’s enactment for the first dispensaries to open their doors.
Since the market’s inception, Jamaica has given permission for 29 growers to partake in the industry. Additionally, 73 licenses for retail, processing, transportation, and various other important duties have been awarded.
During that same year, personal cannabis possession below two ounces was decriminalized and people who were previously convicted with a minor cannabis-related conviction were told that their records had been expunged.
The rainforested country’s law also permits residents to hold a maximum of five plants for personal consumption. Meanwhile, anybody who is caught in possession of more than 2 ounces of cannabis risks being slammed with a sanction and a fine of $500 JMD.
In 2018, the Jamaican Minister of Science, Energy, and Technology, Andrew Wheatley, was quoted as saying that the country ought to take advantage of local cannabis strains and that the plant is, as humans with free will, “our birthright.”
Nonetheless, a big portion of the country’s residents still abstain from the medical cannabis market, which suffers no shortages due to the fact it is up to five times more costly than street-sold cannabis. It’s important to note that cannabis sales and cultivation remain forbidden on a countrywide scale.
Many Jamaican residents feel unsatisfied that the Good Ganja Sense campaign does not push for reform as strongly as it should. Industry bystanders are concerned that the new campaign lacks influential power to effectively raise people’s awareness (and stimulate opinions) on the plant as a whole.
“It’s a step forward from the previous stance about avoiding ganja completely. And the government wants to monetise the industry and make cultivation a viable business. But the language is still very prohibitionist and is all about how you are officially supposed to use cannabis medically,” said industry expert Vicki Hanson, who also assumes the role of retail executive at Itopia Life. She explained further:
“We need to change the discourse, to go further, and examine more traditional use of cannabis and make sure we incorporate into this industry the people who have been criminalized for cultivating cannabis, and how their livelihoods fit into this change. We don’t want to yield too much to the corporate image of cannabis.”
Rastafarians have been among the most active of all Jamaican community groups in terms of trying to gain more legal cannabis for freedom of worship. This has also been a common theme among Rastafarian communities in the U.S. Followers of the Rastafari culture and religion in the U.S. (many of whom are Black) claim that ritualistic cannabis use has resulted in them being racially and religiously assessed by law enforcement agencies.
“Cannabis is something that puts you in contact with the spiritual aspect of life in the physical body,” said a member of the Columbus-located Rastafari Coalition, which recently organized a ceremony to celebrate the 91st anniversary of the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I’s coronation. “It’s important for Rastafari because we follow the traditions of the Scriptures and we see that cannabis is good.”
2021 culminated with a celebration of drug reform advancements in Jamaica. Mainly, the country claimed media attention for taking strides towards greater acceptance (and adoption) of cannabis and psychedelic substances.
In 2021, the imminent launch of the Aion International Center of Psychedelic Psychiatry—a facility specially designed to provide psilocybin treatments for addiction, anxiety, and depression—was announced. Aion Therapeutic has proven in clinical laboratory research studies that medicinal-grade cannabis and psilocybin mushrooms can assist with healing.
One of the most recent advancements was announced in December, with the Pure Jamaican Group of Companies’ acquisition of Timeless Herbal Care. Timeless is acknowledged as the first legal exporter of medical cannabis from Jamaica to Canada, and it was also applauded as the country’s first-awarded GMP certification recipient for medical cannabis for production and extraction.
What’s more, visitors who descend upon Kingston can now peruse and purchase a diverse range of Marley Natural cannabis products inside the Bob Marley Museum. In June 2021, the museum inked a licensing agreement to sell psychedelic mushrooms on the Marley family-owned premises.
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