Insights into Jamaica’s Cannabis Friendly Events and Culture
By: Melody Hayhurst
For many people, thoughts of Jamaica and ganja go hand-in-hand. As cannabis is a deeply ingrained and often visible part of both Jamaican and Rastafarian cultures, ganja smoking tourists have been drawn to the island for decades.
Its vibrant music and culture, beautiful beaches, lush forests and rivers, delectable cuisine, friendly locals, make Jamaica a true tropical paradise. From swanky all-inclusives to Bud B&B’s, there are an incredible range of options and experiences for all types of travelers to enjoy. With sweet reggae rhythms playing essentially everywhere you go, it is quite easy to get swept away in the vibes of this little — or “likkle” as locals would say — island paradise.
The island is a long-loved destination for those whose desire to have cannabis easily available and accessible while traveling. Jamaica’s warm Caribbean waters and stunning sunsets are hard to resist. This is evident by the vast number of international travelers who flock to the island annually. According to the Jamaica Tourist Board, just under four million people visited the nation via air and cruise ship in 2016 alone.
Additionally, their monthly statistical report published in July of 2017 states that, “During the period of January to July 2017, 91.5 percent of foreign nationals visited Jamaica for leisure.” That is over one million people who have already made the journey to enjoy the cannabis friendly country this year — including this writer. The incredible natural beauty and irie environment that Jamaica offers keeps the visitors coming — many of whom make multiple return visits — also including this writer.
Jamaica relies heavily upon the tourism industry, and the accessibility of its cannabis is a key factor. Officially decriminalizing cannabis in early 2015, Jamaica became one of the first and few Caribbean countries to allow personal possession in small amounts. As individuals are now allowed to have up to 2 ounces on them, many of the fines and fears of imprisonment that once existed for tourists and locals alike are no longer present.
While cannabis is readily available in most places on the island, getting the good stuff isn’t always an easy adventure. While you might get lucky and score a driver with a link to a good stash, many travelers often find themselves disappointed, returning home with stories about smoking some expensive, and not so desirable Jamaican ganja — the seedy, brownish, musty sort to be precise. Super unfortunate for them, as I have discovered that Jamaica has both affordable and exceptional high-grade herb available for even the pickiest of cannabis connoisseurs.
Like anywhere else though, it is all about knowing where to get the best of the best. When it comes to Jamaica, that would be in the west — Westmoreland Parish, that is. The agriculturally rich Orange Hill region, located in the parish, is home to some of the island’s best cannabis growers and their farms, many offering daily tours for the canna-curious traveler. Having an ideal cultivation climate, similar to the one found in the Emerald Triangle, the Orange Hill area also has quite the international ganja growing reputation and a rather familiar feel for this NorCal native.
Because of its proximity to Orange Hill, popular west coast tourist destination, Negril, is one of the easiest places to find Jamaica’s most delicious and dankest organically grown greens. Home to the world famous Seven Mile Beach, Negril is also the location of many local and international cannabis related functions. After hosting The High Times Cannabis Cup in November of 2015, the event will again make its way back to Jamaica in March of 2018.
March in Negril will also feature Jamaica’s longest running ganja event, the Stepping High Festival, which according to its website, “creates a one of a kind, authentic, Jamaican experience and a vibe of “oneness” or “inity.” The event also includes exhibitions, where farmers from the community can exchange knowledge on best farming techniques and by-products of ganja. Showcasing premium strains of Jamaican cannabis and a musical line-up that includes local and international acts, Stepping High entices cannabis enthusiasts from around the world.
Rastafari Rootzfest also holds an annual Ganjamaica Cup Event in Negril, happening December 15-17, 2017 at Long Bay Beach Park. In partnership with Oaksterdam University, the three-day event is comprised of a ganja competition, music festival, trade show, and a consumer expo featuring various seminars and speakers. There is lots to be gained from a more “open” cannabis industry on the island, as events like this are helping Jamaica inject more cannabusiness into its economy.