KINGSTON, JAMAICA —The Associated Press reports that the country of Jamaica has a cannabis supply problem. Increased consumption rates coupled with drought followed by heavy rains have bottomed out reserves of cannabis available in Rastafarianism’s birthplace. In 2015, the government legalized medical cannabis and small amounts of ganja but tolerated locals’ illegal cultivation, but farmers are struggling to produce illicit crops.
Last year’s hurricane season produced record rain, drenching cannabis grows, followed by hot, dry weather resulting in significant losses by pot farmers in the country known for its Reggae music and cannabis tourism. Jamaica has limited retail sales of cannabis, but most Jamaicans get their supply on the black market because of the weed’s high prices.
Rastafarians are allowed to consume cannabis for religious purposes, and citizens are authorized to produce five plants for personal use. Jamaicans caught possessing as much as 2 ounces of cannabis face only a fine and are not subject to a criminal record.
Strict Covid Pandemic requirements have impeded supply efforts, including a curfew preventing farmers from working in the nighttime fields.
Cannabis was first introduced to the island nation in the mid-1800s, imported from India by indentured servants during British rule. The herb grows very well in the Jamaican climate and is part of Jamaica’s national identity. Cannabis consumption is considered a sacrament by Rastafarians, who believe that smoking weed increases their spiritual awareness.
Florida Women’s Group Pushes for Legalization
TAMPA, FLORIDA—As regional activists across America focus on social justice and equity, a new voice has emerged in the struggle to defeat cannabis prohibition. Women Initiative for a Safe and Equitable Florida has called for the legalization of cannabis in the Sunshine State. The organization announced a Zoom call recently that included Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried and Holly Bell, the state’s director of cannabis.
Mariah Barnhart, leader of the group, says that medical cannabis significantly contributed to her daughter’s survival. Diagnosed at two years old with a rare form of cancer, Barnhart claims cannabis is what got her daughter through the treatment process.
“We successfully legalized medical cannabis to protect patients from arrest and make sure they have safe access to well-controlled products,” says the concerned mom. “And for the sake of advancing justice and improving public health and safety, it’s time that we take the next step and regulate cannabis across the board for adult use.”
Only licensed medical cannabis use is legal in Florida. Possession of fewer than 20 grams of weed is a misdemeanor punishable by one year of incarceration and up to a $1,000 fine. The possession or sale of cannabis in Florida can result in revoking or suspending the offender’s driver’s license.
The association of Florida mothers advocates the full legalization of adult recreational use, saying that legalizing cannabis use would reduce cartel revenues, mitigate racial inequity in the criminal justice system, and allow police departments to prioritize dangerous crimes.
New York State Poised to Legalize
NEW YORK STATE— Lawmakers in New York State have agreed upon legislation to legalize adult recreational cannabis use. Fresh on the heels of New Jersey’s cannabis law reforms, New York lawmakers presented a bill that would overhaul the state’s cannabis laws. The legislation calls for an Office of Cannabis Management to be governed by a new Cannabis Control Board, CNN reports.
Under the proposal, New York citizens 21 and over would be allowed to cultivate cannabis legally. A 13% tax on retail sales would generate state and local tax dollars. The Cannabis Control Board would have the authority to issue licenses for those wishing to cultivate, process, and distribute cannabis. The legislation will also allow for retail stores and even commercial consumption sites.
The proposed reforms prioritize social equity, aiming to award half of all licenses to applicants belonging to communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition, focusing on communities of color and women-owned businesses.
The Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund would receive some of the revenues generated by cannabis sales and the State Lottery Fund for Education, and the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which would issue grants based upon social equity guidelines.
While the new law would create new penalties for the unlawful possession and sale of cannabis, the smell of cannabis would no longer be grounds to justify searching a driver’s car for cannabis.
Those possessing more than 10 pounds of cannabis flower or 4 pounds of concentrates could face a Class D felony.
The proposal allows municipalities to opt out of cannabis sales if citizens approve a law prohibiting such activities, which could be overridden via New York’s referendum process.
Cannabis reform advocates predicted that New York legislators would act quickly to prevent New Yorkers from traveling to New Jersey to take advantage of that state’s new legalization reforms, diverting tax revenues from state coffers.
Empire State NORML, the Ney York affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, put out a formal statement on the proposed legislation. “As a consumer advocacy organization, NORML is thrilled to hear the negotiated bill reflects marijuana justice and the interests of the cannabis consumers,” said Troy Smit, Deputy Director of Empire State NORML and Director of Long Island NORML. “For far too long, the lives of New Yorkers in low-income and communities of color have been ruined by our draconian enforcement of harmful prohibitionist policies. We hope this bill is a step towards a framework that implements marijuana justice and respects the cannabis consumers’ freedom to use a harmless plant.”
Vivian McPeak is a Seattle based social justice activist, media personality, and writer. Vivian is the president of Seattle Events, a Non-Profit Organization, producer of the Seattle HEMPFEST®, the world’s largest annual cannabis policy reform rally. The recipient of the High Times Magazine 2012 Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award and DOPE Magazine 2016 Emery Award for lifetime achievement, and in 2016 he was named one of the “50 Most Influential People” by Seattle Magazine. Vivian has appeared on numerous television and cable news networks, including FOX News, CNN, & NBC. McPeak is the host of Hempresent, a weekly radio podcast on Cannabis Radio with listeners on multiple continents.