Otherwise called Ganja, Marijuana was brought to Jamaica in the late 1800's by the indentured East Indian labourers. They were brought here to work on the plantations after slavery was ended.
Today, although it is illegal in the country, Marijuana's cultivation is still very much alive and well. In fact, from all indications, it is perhaps at an all time high.
Every now and then we hear reports of "Kingfish", a special police unit, intercepting large shipments or destroying crops and seedlings. By the way, the Jamaican environment and climate is considered a perfect place for the plant to grow.
Now, contrary to popular belief, the use of marijuana in Jamaica is not unique to Rastafarians.
Before Rastafari began, ganja was used by herbalists in Jamaica as a medicine in teas. It was also mixed with tobacco for smoking.
Rastafarians considers Ganja the "wisdom weed" as its use helps one to gain wisdom. Rastafarians also use it as a part of a religious rite and as a means of getting closer to their inner spiritual self.
Rastafarians also say it was found growing at the grave of King Solomon in the Bible. More on religions in Jamaica
Back in 2001, a government commission recommended that marijuana be legalized for personal use by adults -- A move, it was anticipated that the government would have endorsed despite opposition from the United States, which has spent millions to help eradicate the crop on the island. But today, we are still in limbo on that.
So, How strict are laws relative to use of Ganja in Jamaica today?
On a popular online forum, one of my fellow contributors asked the following question:
"I know ganja is illegal there too but according to Wikipedia it's often unenforced. Is this true or not?".
This was my answer:
"You don't want to be caught with it. You are liable to be jailed. True, the police are a lot more lenient these days if you have a only a 'spliff', but I would suggest you not have them use their discretion. I guess police can't venture everywhere, every time, so you will have some room to really "light up".
And by the way, the rastas, who are advocating it to be legal, do smoke it like crazy here! but they will not do it around the lawman. The rest of us don't really mind it."
Another contributor wrote:
"I was just in Jamaica in January...We didn't see too much law enforcement around anywhere. However, we were warned that if you do get nipped for purchasing or possessing marijuana then it won't be pretty. Imprisonment is the penalty for possession. Jamaica is probably the last place where I would want to spend time in jail. The Frommer's guide to Jamaica says that you don't want to experience first had Jamaica's penal system!"
"People were not smoking all around us. We were approached a few times to purchase marijuana but it was subtle. Definitely no bus drivers pulling over to smoke a joint. But that may also depend on where you are going and where you are staying too. We stayed at the Sandals resort and they have a pretty big reputation to uphold."