Jamaica’s Pioneering Journey towards Cannabis Regulation

by Alastair Moore

By respecting human rights, religious freedoms and granting access to medicine, Jamaica is now leading the world in compassionate, evidence-based drug policy.

Crowds gathered in Negril, Jamaica at the Rasta Rootz Fest to celebrate Jamaica’s recent acknowledgement of the religious rights of the Rastafarians to use cannabis. Alongside the festivities of the Rasta Rootz Fest and the Cannabis Cup, the Beckley Foundation, in partnership with the Jamaican Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce, organised a two-day conference entitled “Jamaica’s Regulated Cannabis Industry: First Steps”.

Jamaica Cannabis Conference Amanda Feilding Beckley

The panel: ‘Jamaica’s Regulated Cannabis Industry: First Steps’

Amanda Feilding, Founder and Executive Director of the Beckley Foundation, having recently been appointed as an advisor to the Jamaican government, gave a speech looking back at the failings of the ‘War on Drugs’ and looking forward to the great potential, scientifically, economically and culturally, of Jamaica’s pioneering steps. Jamaica is the first country to create a legally regulated medicinal market for cannabis, decriminalise possession and protect the religious rights of Rastafarians to use cannabis.

“On the global scene I think we have finally reached a tipping point. The intellectual battle against the ‘War on Drugs’ has, for the most part, been won. Most intelligent people realise that it is impossible to eradicate a market through prohibition. Where there is a demand, there will always be a way to fill it. Criminalisation of cannabis has caused untold suffering around the world, while its prevalence has increased dramatically since it was banned. However, that is merely the intellectual battle, the battle on the ground has only just begun, and that is where Jamaica is now leading the way.”

The event saw a strong commitment to effective regulation from the Jamaican government and leading institutions. The speakers represented the full strata of society with speakers from legal, religious and health backgrounds contributing to ensure that a comprehensive policy framework is built.

Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Hon. Anthony Hylton, came out in strong support of strictly regulating the industry:

“There are four hallmarks that we must achieve, in order that the policies that we implement are sustainable and grounded in global best practice. These are: a standards led quality infrastructure; the balance between adopting and adapting to best practices; ensuring optimal economic impact; and intellectual property rights protection”

Hon. Anthony Hylton Amanda Feilding

Hon. Anthony Hylton and Amanda Feilding


President of the Westmoreland Hemp and Ganja Farmers Association Ras Iyah called for the region to join together:

“Unity is strength, and as such whether from a regional bloc or from a point of view, that we…make sure that we become strengthen in such a way that we have a say on the international political field,”

Amanda Feilding went on to address the important potential of the recent legal changes in Jamaica:

“With the Jamaican government’s commitment to medical research, and the expertise of the scientific community in Jamaica, research into cannabis can now flourish. The Beckley Foundation greatly looks forward to collaborating in this exciting movement, which has the potential to open up new avenues of treatment, and thereby end much suffering worldwide.

For the last 17 years I have advocated policies based on health, harm-reduction, cost-effectiveness and respect of human rights – and have simultaneously opened up scientific research into the potential medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis and other traditional plants. It is therefore a delight for me to be accompanying the Jamaican people on this exciting new journey.

If Jamaica could crystallise this potential, it would not only benefit its citizens and the economy, but also enhance the position of Jamaica in the world. It would be wonderful if Jamaica’s reputation at the forefront of athletics and music, could be mirrored by a reputation for leadership in the field of the regulation, and medical use, of cannabis.

As research into the beneficial therapeutic potential of this extraordinary plant continues, the global market for cannabis products is likely to grow substantially. We live in exciting times, as the edifice of drug prohibition is beginning to crumble, and the realisation of the amazing properties of this unique plant continue to grow.

I hope that the United Kingdom will learn some lessons from Jamaica’s progress, and will at least begin by recognising the rights of those in need of access to cannabis for medicinal and religious purposes.”

Amanda’s full speech can be found here.

Presentations were also made by the Minister of Justice as well as distinguished presenters from the Cannabis Licensing Authority, Attorney’s General’s Chambers, the University of the West Indies, the Bureau of Standards Jamaica Ltd., Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), and the Ministry of Tourism & Entertainment.

The conference was a resounding success. It clearly demonstrated how a diverse sections of society can come together for rational debate of drug policy change.

Amanda Feilding is on the Editorial Board for Volte-Face and Executive Director of the Beckley Foundation, a think tank working for health-oriented drug policies based on scientific research. Amanda has recently been appointed as advisor to the Jamaican government in the formation of a comprehensive drug policy and gave her first speech in this capacity at Jamaica’s Regulated Cannabis Industry: First Steps, 13-14 November 2015, Negril, Jamaica.

Further reading: Jamaica: Key Stakeholders Discuss Building a Cannabis Industry

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