It's been nearly 40 years since Peter Tosh said "Legalize It," and Jamaica is finally thinking about moving in that direction.
Marijuana is in some ways a part of Jamaican culture. Citizens of the island nation have used it medicinally for decades; Rastafarians believe it brings them closer to God; there's even a small marijuana tourism industry for foreign visitors. Nevertheless, growing and possessing cannabis has been a criminal offense in Jamaica since 1913.
But that could change soon. Jamaican Parliament member Phillip Paulwell told a local newspaper Monday that he thinks the possession of small amounts of marijuana could be decriminalized this year. Doing so would make pot a civil violation rather than a criminal offense.
Efforts to ease Jamaica's anti-weed laws have been in the works for more than a decade. A government-appointed commission recommended decriminalization back in 2001, noting that marijuana was "culturally entrenched" in the country. But Jamaican leaders feared that loosening pot regulations would defy international treaties and possibly bring sanctions from the United States, according to The Associated Press. Jamaica is the Caribbean's largest exporter of cannabis to the U.S., the AP notes, and drug war violence has taken its toll in parts of the country.
But those fears are dissipating now that states across the U.S. are beginning to relax (or at least considering to relax) marijuana prohibition, and the South American nation of Uruguay has become the first country to officially legalize pot.
"It is my view that decriminalization of the weed will become a reality this [calendar] year, arising from the Parliamentary debate and the support by the majority of the members," Paulwell told The Jamaican Gleaner. "I believe it will be approved this year."
(Hat tip, The Economist)