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Medical Marijuana in Jamaica

By Steve Kubby

A soldier, armed with an assault rifle, steps onto the road and orders us to pull over. I quickly take one more toke and put out my spliff, briefly savoring the candlewood aroma of my Jamaican ganga, and mentally prepare to go into warrior mode. As soon as we stop, I hear a loud, belligerent voice demanding to know if there are guns or drugs in our vehicle - a gleaming white BMW 645, that obviously brought us this unwanted attention.

Before I can say anything, my host speaks up and says he has a 9 mm automatic pistol. He then disarms the weapon and hands the pistol and a fully loaded clip to the soldier.

"Where's your permit?" barks the soldier.

"I left it at home," says my host.

The soldier becomes furious and threatens to impound the car and drag him off to jail. Instead of responding, my host turns, leans into the car and smiles at me.

"He's just trying to squeeze some money out of me, don't worry," he quietly tells me.

My host dials up the Speaker of the House, the number two man in the government and puts him on speakerphone.

"Do you know who your fucking with, mon?"

The solder recognizes the voice of Speaker and begins to apologize profusely.

"You should have told me who you were; I was just looking for some lunch money," he pleads.

My host tells me he also left his wallet behind and asks me for $1000 Jamaican, or about $15 US, which I quickly hand over to him.

"I smelled ganga in your car," says the soldier, looking to squeeze a little more out of the deal.

"Yes, you did," says my host, glaring back at the ill at ease soldier.

Life is certainly stranger than fiction, when you enter the world of medical marijuana.

In September 2007, Jamaica voters dumped the socialist, People's National Party (PLP), and elected a somewhat more right wing, Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). That victory was largely made possible by the Rastafari movement. One year later, I received an invitation from the new government to meet with them and discuss medical marijuana. The invitation, I was told, was brokered by a wealthy Jamaican who served as the "Spiritual Advisor to the JLP."

I flew down to Jamaica in October and spent a month there in meetings. During that time, I met with a number of resort owners who are anxious for medical marijuana tourists to come to stay with them. My Rastafari urged me to stay in Negril, at the Bar B Barn. I politely declined and told them I'm not into Country Western. They laughed and told me to trust them on this.

Soon, I found myself staying, right on the beach, at one of the most cannabis friendly resorts in the world. Toking up was no problem anywhere in the resort, including the dining area. Meanwhile, beach venders offered sticky buds for $15 US. Thanks to my Rasta friends, I was able to secure medical grade cannabis for $50, an outrageous price by Jamaican standards, but totally worthy.

Jamaica's incredibly medicinal sativa strains have been badly polluted by indicas from Europe. Part of my mission in Jamaica was to determine if these incredibly valuable medicinal strains still exist. Jamaicans have used these strains medically for hundreds of years, but the lure of quicker flowering and more expensive indica strains has been devastating to the old Landrace strains that had been carefully bred for medical properties.

Strains from Cambodia and Thailand are grown in Jamaica and the resulting soaring sativas are outstanding. However, indigenous Jamaican strains like LambsBreath seem more elusive than ever.

During my entire stay, the Spiritual Advisor personally drove me and served as my host - the same advisor and host who packs a 9 mm and drives the V8 BMW.

My host arranged for me to meet with a number of officials, including Speaker of the House and Minister of Health and Environment, as well as former MP and current president of Jamaica Air. I also met with a physician and a scientist, who have been producing medical cannabis medicines in Jamaica for over a decade.

During my stay, the Jamaican Cabinet met with the Minister of Health to debate allowing medical cannabis in Jamaica. A decision was made that there was too great of a risk of economic sanctions by the US for Jamaica to change its laws, at least for now.

Meanwhile, for those who rely upon cannabis as their medicine, or those who find other value in the herb, Jamaica offers a safe haven.