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Jamaica (sure, Jamaica) is dealing with a uncommon marijuana scarcity

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KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica is running out of ganja.

Heavy rains, followed by prolonged drought, an increase in local consumption and a decline in the number of cannabis growers have created a shortage in the island’s famous but largely illegal market, which experts consider to be the worst they have ever seen .

“It’s a cultural embarrassment,” said Triston Thompson, lead researcher on opportunities at Tacaya, a consulting and brokerage firm for the country’s burgeoning legal cannabis industry.

Jamaica, which foreigners have long associated with cannabis, reggae and Rastafarians, allowed a regulated medical marijuana industry and decriminalized small amounts of weeds in 2015.

Individuals caught with 56 grams of cannabis or less will face a small fine and no arrest or criminal record. Individuals can also grow up to five plants on the island, and Rastafarians are legally allowed to smoke ganja for sacramental purposes.

However, enforcement is incomplete as many tourists and locals continue to buy cannabis on the streets, where it has become scarcer and more expensive.

Heavy rains during last year’s hurricane season hit cannabis fields that were later scorched in the ensuing drought, causing losses of tens of thousands of dollars, according to farmers who grow the crop outside the legal system.

“It destroyed everything,” said Daneyel Bozra, who grows cannabis in southwest Jamaica, in a historic village called Accompong, founded by escaped 18th-century slaves known as the Maroons.

The problem was exacerbated by strict COVID-19 measures, including a 6 p.m. curfew that meant farmers could not tend their fields as usual at night, said Kenrick Wallace, 29, who lives in Accompong with the help of 20 others Farmers.

He noted that a lack of roads forced many farmers to walk to reach their fields – and then fetch water from wells and springs. Many were unable to complete these tasks at night due to the curfew.

Wallace estimated that he has lost more than $ 18,000 in recent months and grown only 300 pounds, compared to an average of 700 to 800 pounds the group normally produces.

Activists believe the pandemic and the relaxation of marijuana laws in Jamaica have spurred a surge in local consumption that has contributed to the scarcity, even if the pandemic has affected the arrival of ganja-seeking tourists.

“Last year was the worst year. … We have never had so much loss, “said Thompson. “It is so ridiculous that cannabis is scarce in Jamaica.”

Tourists have also taken note of this and have posted articles on travel websites about difficulties in finding the drug.

Paul Burke, CEO of the Ganja Growers and Producers Association in Jamaica, said in a phone interview that people are no longer afraid of being imprisoned because the government allows small quantities to be owned. He said the stigma of ganja has decreased and more people are appreciating its claimed therapeutic and medicinal value during the pandemic.

Burke also said that some traditional smallholder farmers are no longer growing frustrated because they cannot afford to meet legal market requirements while police continue to destroy what he calls “good ganja fields”.

The government’s cannabis licensing agency, which has approved 29 breeders and granted 73 licenses for transportation, retail, processing and other activities, said there is no shortage of marijuana in the regulated industry. But farmers and activists say weeds sold through legal dispensaries known as pharmacies are out of reach for many as they still cost five to ten times more than cannabis on the street.

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Beth Edmonds