Caribbean news. After decades of debate about the role of ganja in Jamaican society, new legislation allows citizens to grow up to five plants. Jamaica has decriminalised the possession of small amounts of marijuana and approved the drug’s use for religious, medicinal and therapeutic purposes.

Legislation passed by both houses of parliament paves the way for a “cannabis licensing authority” to be established to regulate the drug. The change means Jamaicans will be able to cultivate up to five marijuana plants on a single premises without facing arrest. Being caught in possession of up to two ounces of marijuana will become a petty offence that no longer results in a criminal record. Followers of the Rastafari tradition will also be allowed to use the drug freely for sacramental purposes for the first time.

A man smokes marijuana during a pro-legalisation demonstration in Kingston. Photo courtesy

A man smokes marijuana during a pro-legalisation demonstration in Kingston. Photo courtesy

Tourists who are prescribed medical marijuana abroad will also be able to apply for permits allowing them to buy small amounts of Jamaican pot. The legislation follows several decades of debate about marijuana’s place in Jamaican society. Rastafarianism, the religion followed by Jamaican reggae musician Bob Marley, sanctions the ritualistic use of marijuana and the drug is widely used.

Supporters of decriminalisation argue that laws prohibiting marijuana caused unnecessary tension between many Jamaicans and police. The country’s minister of national security Peter Bunting said the legislation marks the end of a decades-long battle to legalise the drug. “To describe this Bill’s development as elephantine is to label it in euphemistic terms since the parliamentary deliberations on it commenced as far back as 38 years ago,” he said. “It eliminates an unnecessary source of friction between police and citizens, and ensures that our young people are not gratuitously shackled with criminal records.

“It is significant because it begins to correct decades of criminalising tens of thousands of Jamaicans, mostly poor young black males, for possession of a little ‘spliff’. “This progressive legislation also begins to correct the victimisation of our Rastafarian brethren which started in colonial times and continued after independence.”

The move in Jamaica comes as several US states take steps to decriminalise marijuana for personal and medicinal use. This week Alaska became the third US state to legalise the recreational use of marijuana, although it remains illegal to smoke pot in public. Washington State and Colorado already allow the recreational use of marijuana. Article courtesy