Cannabis in Jamaica: A Timeline


Late 1800’s: Cannabis is brought to Jamaica by Indian indentured labourers


1913:  The Ganja Law Criminalises Cannabis in Jamaica. This law made it illegal to cultivate and import marijuana in Jamaica and also made it possible for the Resident Magistrate to order that any cannabis sativa found growing in the island be destroyed.


1977: A Joint Select Committee reviewed the ganja use and legislation, the committee rejected the legalization of cannabis but recommended that there was a great case for the decriminalisation of ganja for personal/private use, and that there be no penalty for quantities up to two ounces. It also recommended lawful prescription of marijuana for medicinal use.


2000:  In a report of the National Commission on Ganja to then Prime Minister Rt. Honorable P.J. Patterson; the commission concluded that marijuana is not entirely safe and can cause ill effects on mental health, short term memory and reaction time, and for those who smoke it tar inhalation can affect the lungs. With this in mind, the commission also held the view that many persons who moderately use marijuana had no short or long term negative effects. The importance of the cannabis plant as a spiritually enhancing substance to the population was also well recognized.

Recommendations from the National Commission on Ganja:

that the relevant laws be amended so that ganja be decriminalised for the private, personal use of small quantities by adults;

that decriminalisation for personal use should exclude smoking by juveniles or by anyone in premises accessible to the public;

that ganja should be decriminalised for use as a sacrament for religious purposes;

that a sustained all-media, all-schools education programme aimed at demand reduction accompany the process of decriminalisation, and that its target should be, in the main, young people;

that the security forces intensify their interdiction of large cultivation of ganja and trafficking of all illegal drugs, in particular crack/cocaine;

that, in order that Jamaica be not left behind, a Cannabis Research Agency be set up, in collaboration with other countries, to coordinate research into all aspects of cannabis, including its epidemiological and psychological effects, and importantly as well its pharmacological and economic potential, such as is being done by many other countries, not least including some of the most vigorous in its suppression; and

that as a matter of great urgency Jamaica embark on diplomatic initiatives with its CARICOM partners and other countries outside the Region, in particular members of the European Union, with a view (a) to elicit support for its internal position, and (b) to influence the international community to re-examine the status of cannabis. [2]


2015: Amendments to the Dangerous Drug Act decriminalized the possession of up to 2 ounces of cannabis, and made it legal for each household to grow no more than five cannabis plants on property, and decriminalized the possession of cannabis for religious purposes as a sacrament in adherence to the Rastafarian faith. 

The amendments also allowed for the possession of cannabis to be used for medical or therapeutic purposes as recommended or prescribed by a registered medical doctor or other health practitioner or class of practitioners approved by the Minister of Health and the possession of ganja for purposes of scientific research that is conducted by an accredited tertiary institution or is approved by the Scientific Research Council (SRC).[3]

The Cannabis Licensing Authority was also established in 2015 to establish and regulate the legal ganja and hemp industry in Jamaica.


2020: The Cannabis Licensing Authority reports that it has issued 67 licenses to local companies and individuals since 2015. The CLA is also working on a Cultivators (Transitional) Special Permit for small or subsistence farmers to be able to enter the medicinal cannabis industry and transition to becoming a license holder. [4]