It’s no secret that Jamaica is one of the best islands to experience reggae, Caribbean food, and beautiful beaches. For many visitors, though, the amazing scenery is only a backdrop to experiencing the country’s world famous cannabis.
Jamaican cannabis, which goes by many other names including ganja, marijuana, weed, marigold, spliff, or herb, has been popular on the island for more than a century. The first marijuana plants were brought to Jamaica by indentured servants from India. Indentured servants became common on the island after the complete emancipation of slaves in 1838, and ganja even comes from the Sanskrit word for hemp. Popularity of the drug increased over time, and its use is closely linked to the Rastafarian religion. Yet for locals and visitors alike, getting caught with cannabis meant fines, confiscation, or imprisonment.
The laws concerning marijuana use started to change in 2015 with amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act. The amendments decriminalized the possession of 2 ounces or less. People with this amount can get a ticket for 500 Jamaican dollars (around $3.50), but it’s similar to a traffic ticket in that the offender can’t be arrested or taken to court. Rastafarian adherents can consume cannabis for sacramental purposes.
While visitors typically have plenty of options to purchase cannabis from a local as soon as they arrive in Jamaica, this method of procurement is not advisable for most first-time smokers or travelers. Even the local smokers are highly particular about what they purchase, as some strains are extremely strong and you don’t know what you’re going to get from someone selling on the street.
In a safe and legal environment like a cannabis dispensary, or a so-called herb house, you get to choose the way you ingest cannabis. As clinical as the term cannabis dispensary sounds, you can think of it more like a boutique-style coffee shop where you can learn about cannabis from budtenders. You’ll also have the chance to smoke inside in the designated rooms, as public smoking is still illegal.
It’s important to note that, while decriminalized, recreational cannabis is illegal. This, however, isn’t much of a problem as medical cards for locals and tourists alike are offered on site at dispensaries for around $10. Getting a card is as simple as being over 18 years old and purchasing a medical certificate. Additionally, people with a medical card from the United States can use their card in Jamaica.
As the Miami Herald put it, “permission to legally smoke takes all but five minutes. No local address needed. No medical record requested — not even a physical exam is required.”
These are the Jamaican dispensaries to keep on your radar. Just remember that these dispensaries, while free to enter, only accept cash transactions.
Epican, one of the most popular cannabis stores in Jamaica, gives you a variety of marijuana to choose from. Each bud comes with an explanation of its rich history and the specific experience it will give the smoker. If you’re looking to relax, you’ll be guided to one of the indica hybrids like Super Skunk or Gorilla Glue. If you want the opposite, sativa strains like Dream Berry and Lemon Haze will leave you feeling creative, energized, and happy. After you choose your strain, saunter over to the Hot Boxx, the smoking lounge Epican runs at the locations in Kingston and Montego Bay.
Where: Shop #3, 67 Constant Spring Rd, Kingston, Jamaica
Kaya is known for its award-winning strains and for providing the ultimate seed-to-sale experience. This was the first legal marijuana dispensary in the Caribbean, and today has locations in St. Ann and Trelawney. You can go on a cannabis tour of the grounds, and after you’ve made your selection you can choose from a number of different smoke lounges. Kaya also offers a farm tour and a cafe that infuses cannabis into the food. Just call ahead to confirm the availability of a doctor if you don’t have a certificate.
Where: 1 Weed Street, Drax Hall, Jamaica, and 1 Trelawny St, Falmouth, Jamaica
This hotspot is the perfect beachfront location in Montego Bay. Island Strains is owned by a Jamaican-American couple, and it has one of the best smoking lounges on a hip strip. If your goal in Jamaica is to responsibly and legally consume cannabis while staring out at the Caribbean Sea from a beachside deck, then Island Strains is the place to do it. The menu is extensive, including a few boutique strains.
Where: Gloucester Ave, Montego Bay, Jamaica