Ganja and the Laws of Men: Cannabis Decriminalization and Social (In)Justice in Jamaica

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This article describes the harms caused by the criminalization of cannabis in Jamaica and the outcomes of the decriminalization and legalization processes that started in 2015. It argues that the current framework does not promote social justice for actors historically engaged in the cannabis trade and suggests that it should be revised and aligned with policies geared towards reparations. It focuses on the historical entanglements between Rastafarians, law enforcement, and criminal justice once the prohibition has been weaponized against these actors. I discuss the involvement of the US in the attempt to eradicate cannabis in Jamaica, the massive investment in militarization, and the state violence embodied in the war against cannabis to then unpack the issues with the process of decriminalization and legalization. It concludes by suggesting that the Cannabis Licensing Authority and the Jamaican government must develop deeper engagement with traditional farmers to design and implement policies that will allow them to enjoy the benefits of the current legal cannabis market.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalContemporary Drug Problems
Early online date17 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Feb 2023


  • drug policy
  • Cannabis
  • Jamaica
  • Rastafari


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