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Jamaica is facing an unprecedented cannabis shortage

Jamaica’s cannabis shortage has been labelled as a “cultural embarrassment”, but it precedes a larger financial problem for thousands of farmers.

It has been a tough year for Jamaican farmers. Jamaica has not only been facing the terrifying and ongoing threat of COVID-19, but the Caribbean island has also been facing severe changes in weather, making the conditions needed for farming worsen.

Jamaica is a tropical island that encounters two main seasons; the dry season ranges from December to April, and the wet season or hurricane season, where the worst conditions are typically observed from June to November. Last year saw marijuana fields face severe drought, scorched from high temperatures followed by hurricanes ploughing through the wet season.

Photo: Angela Weiss / AFP / Getty Images
Photo: Angela Weiss / AFP / Getty

In the last few years, the Jamaican government has grown to accept cannabis being a point of national recognition for the country. But it wasn’t always this way. Until 2015, possession of two ounces of marijuana (57g) would have sent you to jail for a criminal offence.

Changes were seen in 2015 when a series of amendments were passed as the Dangerous Drug Act, which essentially decriminalised the use and selling of cannabis with an approved licence. However, the act did not completely legalise the drug, as fines could still be given to minors (under the age of 18 in Jamaica’s case), and possession of larger amounts still remained a criminal offence.

For many farmers in Jamaica, cannabis farming has been their livelihood, often selling to tourists who wanted to immerse themselves. The extreme weather faced over the last year destroyed many of the farmer’s crops and destroyed roads and paths that led to these fields, making it more challenging to access these areas.

Not to mention the world facing a global pandemic. There has been a huge loss in tourism for Jamaica, which has meant a loss of livelihood for many. Thompson explained to the Associated Press that last year was the worst year that the island had seen in a long time, saying “It’s something so laughable that cannabis is short in Jamaica.”