Tourists looking to smoke up on an island getaway may soon be able to do so completely legally. At a recent meeting of The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), an organization of 19 island nations including Jamaica, Barbados, Haiti, and the Bahamas, the islands' heads of state discussed a new report recommending that all member nations "review marijuana's current status with a view to reclassification," according to Marijuana Moment.
The CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana recently released a report advocating that "the end goal for CARICOM should be the dismantling of [cannabis] prohibition in its totality, to be replaced by a strictly regulated framework akin to that for alcohol and tobacco, which are harmful substances that are not criminalized," the Nassau Guardian reports. "The commission is unanimous in its view that ultimately, legal policy toward marijuana should be informed, not by punitive approaches, but by public health rationales, within a human rights, social justice, and developmental perspective."
In order to accomplish these goals, the report recommends that "all criminal penalties from marijuana laws should be removed," and that nations should allow former cannabis offenders the chance to expunge their prior criminal records. As a first step, the report recommends the establishment of medical cannabis programs alongside the decriminalization of private adult recreational use. Following this, the report encourages the creation of fully regulated retail sales, including legal imports and exports of cannabis products.
The commission conducted a study on the economic impacts of legalization, concluding that "the highest financial benefits will come from a fully legalized model that is strictly regulated and the lowest benefit will come from decriminalizing only. Cannabis can be produced for export as well as for local healing and can be the foundation for a new and vibrant wellness tourism industry. Savings will also accrue as a result of lower public health bills as Caribbean nationals substitute expensive pharmaceutical drugs with often more effective cannabis at lower costs and often with lower side effects."
In a joint statement, the nations' leaders said they "welcomed" the commission's report, taking note of "its findings, conclusions, and recommendations in particular with respect to human and religious rights; the social and developmental impact of use among adolescents; the economic benefits to be derived and issues related to its classification," Marijuana Moment reports. "Heads of Government recognized that the current classification of marijuana as an illicit drug presented a challenge in the conduct of research to fully understand and ascertain the medicinal benefits to be derived."
"CARICOM Heads agreed that each Member State, in accordance with its own circumstances, would determine the path it will pursue in relation to the Law Reform Models proposed by the Regional Marijuana Commission," Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness explained in a recent tweet. Jamaica may be able to serve as a model to other Caribbean nations when it comes to cannabis reform, as the country has been working on its own to relax its prohibitive marijuana laws over the past three years.
Despite the country's traditional ties with ganja, Jamaica passed a law to criminalize cannabis in 1913. This law, which imposed severe penalties to anyone caught using, growing, or dealing pot, was amended in 2015 to reduce the penalty for low-level pot possession to a petty offense with a minor fine. This new law also legalized medical marijuana, and this February, Jamaican ganja farmers harvested the country's first legal crop of weed in over a hundred years.