Home of Bob Marley Rolls Out Red Carpet for Pot Tourists

World

Marijuana tourism has been part of the Jamaican experience for years, but now that the island nation has decriminalized pot possession and small-time cultivation and legalized medical and spiritual use, authorities are preparing to roll out the red carpet for the reefer crowd.


As part of the process of shifting toward more relaxed marijuana laws on the island famous for it, the Bureau of Standards Jamaica this week released a regulatory framework for the budding legal industry. The 17-part proposal for a highly regulated pot cultivation and commerce system is full of details that will be of interest mostly to those getting directly involved in the trade, such as establishing intellectual property rights over strains and establishing a seed-to-sale tracking system.

But one part of the proposal is aimed directly at what the government (and a whole bunch of other people) assumes will be a flood of pot tourists: "The Bureau has recommended that a process be put in place for tourists to participate as a licensed patient in the system. The airports have been identified as key points in establishing the ability for a tourist to receive legal authorization to consume ganja while in Jamaica."

At this point, it's a bit unclear how this is going to work, and there are more questions than answers. It seems likely that Jamaica will recognize medical marijuana cards from people in states that issue them, but will that mean existing card-holders merely pay a fee and get a stamp? And what about people who don't hold medical marijuana cards? Will they be able to get authorized as patients with a pro forma exam at the airport?

Any tourists who do get authorized will then be able to purchase ganja from a pharmacy—or a vending machine, according to the proposal.

Many tourists may not bother with becoming licensed patients. While Jamaican cops have been quick to harass Rastafarians and other Jamaican ganja lovers in the past, they have generally left the tourists alone. And now, under decriminalization, even if the cops do nab you, all you'll face is the loss of your weed and a $100 fine.

But whether tourists choose to participate or not, the Jamaican government appears to be cognizant of the role ganja tourism plays and is willing to try to proactively accommodate them. That's pretty smart.

Now, those infamous, illicit pot tours ("See Bob Marley's birthplace, see a real-life ganja plantation!") are likely to remain illicit—pot farmers are limited to five plants unless they're part of the regulated commercial system—but that didn't stop them from operating in the past, and it's unlikely that they are going to close up shop now.

I can't wait for the first Jamaican Ministry of Tourism ganja ads to roll out. The Jamaicans understand that they're sitting on a gold mine.  

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