Updated on April 19, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Jamaica decriminalized minor marijuana offenses and legalized medical cannabis in 2015, so citizens looking for relief now have a much easier time getting legal access than before. But, that doesn’t mean that they have zero cannabis laws to keep in mind.
Jamaica’s recreational marijuana laws make private use of cannabis not illegal, but also not legal. While the law mentions no penalties for using marijuana in a private place, it does restrict cannabis possession. Anybody caught with marijuana will receive some form of legal persecution, whether major or minor.
Patients with prescriptions and members of the Rastafarian religion have more liberties than recreational users. Patients can use the cannabis medicine specified by their doctor. Meanwhile, Rastafarians have permission to use marijuana in religious settings. But, Rastafarians may need a prescription if they need to use cannabis outside of their religion.
Jamaica doesn’t have an official medical marijuana program for patients to join. Some nations create these programs to better regulate cannabis, but they can also make it more difficult for patients in need to get legal access.
Patients with terminal or chronic illnesses can ask their doctor for a prescription for cannabis medicine. As long as the patient has a government-issued health card, they can consult a physician registered with the Medical Council of Jamaica.
Visitors from out of the country can also obtain medical marijuana in Jamaica if they request a permit from the Ministry of Health.
Marijuana was completely criminalized in Jamaica until the 2015 Amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Acts, whichi decriminalized the possession of two ounces of cannabis or less. Anyone caught with a small amount will only receive a fine. However, possessing more than two ounces still counts as a criminal offense — violators can be arrested, tried in court and imprisoned.
While the police can’t arrest or detain you when they catch you smoking in public, they can issue a ticket of up to $500.
Jamaica’s medical cannabis laws let patients with severe conditions like cancer get access to medicine. However, the law does not seem to define what illnesses can have medical marijuana treatment. An official booklet from the government mentions folks with “cancer or any other terminal or serious chronic illness” can request cannabis medication. But, it does not define that phrase any further.
Ultimately, that definition is up to the doctor who prescribes the medical cannabis to interpret. If a patient has a chronic illness the physician doesn’t deem serious enough, they could still be denied cannabis medicine.
As long as they can present their prescription and medical card, Jamaican medicinal cannabis patients can avoid the penalties that recreational users face. Of course, they must own and use marijuana as specified by their physician. If you don’t follow your doctor’s orders, you could still be subject to punishment.
Doctors who prescribe medicinal cannabis in good faith don’t have to worry about charges, either. They should only recommend medication that follows Jamaica’s established regulations for medical marijuana. As long as a doctor only writes prescriptions for approved medicine, they won’t be penalized for working with cannabis.
Jamaica’s medical marijuana industry is still a new frontier. So, regulations could shift to account for problems that come up. A savvy patient should keep up with any medicinal cannabis news that applies to them. Keep an eye on our news and updates to learn about any changes as they happen.