The revolution in Jamaica is not a violent one, it is a shift in thinking from a certain group that much of the world has come to identify as symbolic of Jamaica, the Rastafarians. Jamaican marijuana is not embraced by the entire island by any means, yet a lot of marijuana is still produced in the Caribbean paradise.
With marijuana decriminalized on the island and the government looking to make money from the marijuana industry, there is now a lot of interest in the island from places like China. However, the families that havJamaicae been farming illegal marijuana for generations simply do not trust the changes in the law, nor do they see the costs associated with becoming legitimate as reasonable.
So Baxter’s farm is hidden. It has to be. To find it, you have to head deep into the countryside. First, a taxi ride out of town. Then, a hike through green sugar cane on a dirt path. Finally, around a corner, is a rocky field covered with knee-high marijuana plants. At night, Baxter sleeps in the open, under a lean-to. Someone always has to be on the lookout for government helicopters. But that could change.
The international market for marijuana is booming. It’s set to reach $50 billion within a decade. And after spending millions to crack down on the drug, Jamaica’s government has decided it wants to cash in. It legalized medical marijuana and created a new licensing system to allow farmers to legally grow cannabis for medical, scientific or therapeutic purposes. But the fees are expensive and small farmers like Baxter say they’re being left by the wayside.
There are billions of dollars at stake and a whole list of problems. But there’s also cultural pushback here in Jamaica. The stereotype that all Jamaicans smoke weed is just that — a stereotype. Jamaican culture is traditional — even conservative. And pot is not always OK.
Traditionally, it’s Jamaica’s Rastafarians who’ve embraced cannabis — for spiritual reasons. And the push to legalize ganja has made things better for them. Police are no longer allowed to arrest anyone carrying less than two ounces. Last year the Rastafari community held a three-day cultural celebration during which participants were legally able to use the drug. They plan to have another celebration in December.
The groups that have lived conservatively and shunned the use of marijuana on Jamaica have to contend with the change in thinking towards cannabis as well. If recreational marijuana becomes completely legal in Jamaica, do you think it will be to the long term benefit of the islanders?