Jamaica Wants Tourists to Buy Weed in Airports

In an effort to cash in on the legal cannabis industry, Jamaica officials are working to provide tourists with easy access to marijuana as soon as they step foot onto the island.

It is no secret, by now, not even to the governing powers of the land of wood and water, that the majority of those who visit Jamaica do so in the hopes of getting their hands on some of that high-powered ganja to live out a Bob Marley boot camp fantasy.

It is for this reason that the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) is currently developing plans to install cannabis kiosks inside all airports and seaports that would not only allow travelers to pick up a license to legally use the herb during their visit, but also provide them with a couple of ounces of weed before they head off to the hotel.

“It would primarily be for people who have a prescription and, in effect, you’re doing it for medicinal purposes with a permit from the Ministry of Health. If they don’t have a prescription, then they can do what we call ‘self-declare’, and this will allow them to have the two ounces while they are here,” CLA Chairman Hyacinth Lightbourne told to the Jamaica Gleaner.

Jamaica decriminalized marijuana possession, earlier last year, in a manner that allows anyone caught with two ounces of weed, or less, to simply pay a small fine (about five dollars) instead of facing criminal penalties. The passing of this legislation, which was done in an effort to establish a medicinal cannabis sector, also allows residents to cultivate up to five plants for personal use without being dragged to a local jail. However, unlike some of the medical marijuana laws in the U.S., Jamaica’s allows tourists to get a permit from the government that gives them to freedom to purchase up to two ounces of weed during their visit.

So rather than force tourists to jump through a series of inconvenient hoops just to enjoy their time on the island in an altered-state of stoned bliss, the CLA simply wants to give people the opportunity to satisfy all of their marijuana-related business as soon as they get off the airplane or cruise ship.

“The thought is that if you are coming out of the airport, there is a kiosk that you can go to,” Lightbourne said. “So basically whoever is coming out of immigration can go to that desk and register and get that clearance.”

It is a move the agency believes would generate a significant revenue stream for the government, one that compares to some of the numbers being reported in other parts of the world where cannabis has been made legal.

“In Colorado last year, even though it is recreational and medicinal, they sold about US$1 billion worth of marijuana and collected $135 million in taxes for the state alone with a population of five million plus,” said CLA member Delano Severight. “The Canadian market for medical, due to their patient system, they earn US$100 million from that alone, and their view is that if they open it up, then they will have a US$5-billion industry and the US overall is about US$5.4 billion last year and US$6.7 billion this year. So you can see the potential it presents.”

The CLA reportedly plans to move rather quickly on this development in order to avoid having the idea squashed by regulatory loopholes.

photo: Joe Schaefer

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