NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Like Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Jamaica is a mecca for cannabis culture known all over the world thanks to Bob Marley and King Haile Selassie.
“Jamaica's Rastafarian religion makes cannabis an embedded part of their culture,” said Scott Giannotti, president of the Cannabis and Hemp Association (CHA), a trade association headquartered in New York. “Legalization efforts will legitimize the use that is already going on and no longer paint Jamaica as a radical culture for embracing cannabis.”
The cultivation, selling, and consumption of marijuana has been illegal in Jamaica since 1913, but the Jamaican government announced in June 2014 that it would decriminalize possession for personal, religious and medicinal use.
“Jamaica has a long history with cannabis use, and now the government is moving toward official sanction,” said Matthew Abel, cannabis attorney in Michigan. “Liberalization in other countries sometimes makes the U.S. want to catch up.” Other countries taking tentative steps towards legalization include Uruguay and Costa Rica. “Uruguay is the first country which has moved towards legalization,” Abel told Mainstreet. “Costa Rica is just beginning to consider medical marijuana.”
Like Cuban cigars, marijuana in the U.S. is developing into national and international brands and even flavors. “Because marijuana is a crop like Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, you will see different quality and flavor profiles emerge based on different parts of the world but the U.S. is far from allowing imports of marijuana from other countries,” said Adam Laufer, an attorney and co-CEO of MJ Holdings in Miami.
Jamaica stepped into the international legalization spotlight when it hosted the third annual Green Gold Conference in Kingston last month. “These efforts in developing countries are important as they will end marijuana as a highly trafficked drug in the short term,” said Bob Hoban, a cannabis and CBD attorney in Denver.
WATCH: More personal finance videos on MainStreet | More videos from Scott Gamm
Some countries have no choice but to conform as
legalization in the U.S.
“When you legalize marijuana, it suppresses more of the black market over time,” Laufer told MainStreet. “The question is whether legalization in the U.S. will influence, delay or impact how marijuana will be regulated, grown and exported out of Jamaica.”
The same goes for Mexico. “We are seeing U.S. regulatory models eliminate Mexico's black market and importation into U.S. marijuana production and that regulation decreases illegal enterprise related to the industry,” Hoban told MainStreet.
Overall, it has become less expensive to legalize due to shrinking law enforcement financial resources.
“Foreign countries are pushing for legalization and regulation so that they can benefit from tax dollars, increased tourism and lower crime rates,” said Tamas Knecht, a marijuana consultant in the financial industry.
—Written for MainStreet by Juliette Fairley