Destination Cannabis: A Caribbean Oasis
By: Tiyana Matliovski
When I think of Jamaica a few of things pop into my mind; reggae music, jerk chicken, picture perfect beaches, and of course, ganja.
For most of the world cannabis in Jamaica is thought of as ubiquitous part of the culture, but the truth is, here too the plant suffered greatly under prohibition. As it happens we’re presently shifting persepective, both locally and globally, and Jamaica too is heading in a new direction.
One of the jewels of the Caribbean islands, there’s something extraordinarily satisfying about the thought of lying on a beach, sipping a cold beverage, as the hotel staff present me with a selection of organic Jamaican grown pre-rolls. Could this be a reality?
According to Epican, A Jamaican licensed producer, it’s precisely the kind of future they envisage for the island - a haven for cannabis tourism - a cannabis paradise.
In 2015, Jamaica established a framework and protocols for the medicinal use of cannabis. Today, thanks to the vagueness of the legislations wording, access to medical cannabis is quite easy. US citizens who are 18 years or older can access cannabis legally with a prescription from their own doctor. If Cannabis is not legal where you’re from, that’s no issue either, as the dispensaries, or ‘herb houses’ as they’re known on the island, have physicians that will prescribe cannabis for your ‘ailment’ - if it is deemed an appropriate solution.
Luckily cannabis is appropriate for almost any ailment, particularly ones that might flare up while you’re on holiday, like stress!
So how close are we to this cannabis island paradise? Pretty close apparently.
Last year, Epican entered into a strategic partnership with The Green Organic Dutchman, an Ontario based licensed producer. The partnership aims to create local, sustainable and organically grown cannabis, with a view to make accessibility to locals and visitors even easier.
Epican have already begun testing a cannabis vending machine at one of their retail locations in Kingston! Their vision is to install vending machines stocked with dry flower, pre-rolls, oils and disposable vapes in resorts and other destination locations like the cruise ship ports, making the entire cannabis experience more convenient for the high-minded visitor.
Authorities say that cannabis tourism has the potential to create new jobs and establish a viable legal industry for the island, the hope is it might also boost the existing tourism industry. Jamaica has long been a tourist haven, surrounded by pristine beach scenes, bountiful in exotic fruits as it is in good music, good food, laid back people and an eternal summer breeze, and is said to provide about one quarter of all jobs on the island.
Known for its beaches, reggae music, and as the home of the Rastafarian community, the cannabis tourism angle fits into the island’s reputation quite nicely, however, as is the case with nearly all places, Jamaica has a dark history of prohibition. Rastafarians who view the cannabis plant as sacrosanct for their religious and ritualistic practices, have been disproportionately affected by the criminalisation of the cannabis plant in the 1930’s.
In the 1970’s, it was estimated that about 70 percent of the working class black population was believed to use cannabis, either by smoking it or ingesting it as a tea, tonic or as a food additive. While the recent changes in cannabis laws may have given the Rastafarian community, and many others, a little bit of a breathing space, undoubtedly they will need support to rebuild and establish themselves within this new order, ensuring they too are beneficiaries of legalisation.
Epican says that community support is a pillar on which they hope to build their business, setting up charitable foundations and ensuring the damage from prohibition is remedied as best as possible.
The veneration for the cannabis plant in Rasta culture is something we could all learn from. Referred to as the ‘healing herb’ or ‘wisdom weed’, they believe it not only helps heal our wounds but also rejuvenates us. It is considered a spiritual ally and a vehicle to God - a plant which must be respected.
With good reason, Jamaica has ranked high on the list of travel destinations for millions of people around the world. And with cannabis legalisation, it’s seems likely that Jamaica will get bumped even 'higher' up the list.
I’m already planning my next vacation, and it’s looking a lot like it’s going to be Jamaica!