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ID: 547

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Policy

Topics: Drug Policy Reform and Advocacy

Presenting author: Vicki Hanson

Presenting author biography:

Vicki Hanson is an Executive Committee Member NYNGOC, an Executive Board Member IDPC, and a Committee Member Ganja Growers & Producers Association. She is a PhD Candidate in Public Policy at the Department of Government, UWI (Mona), exploring the public policy issues to resolve establishing a legally regulated cannabis industry.

A Cultural Approach to Cannabis Policy as Harm Reduction: The Caribbean Experience

Vicki Hanson

The Caribbean region is viewed as one of the main areas for the cultivation of cannabis, with one of the larger island, Jamaica playing a significant role in the cultivation and trade of the plant. This is mainly because of the cultural significance of cannabis in the society. However, Jamaica maintained a strict prohibitionist attitude to cannabis for over 100 years, until 2015 when there was an amendment to the law that decriminalized possession of small quantities. There was also a new policy approach that led to the establishment of the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) which is the entity tasked with issuing the licenses for the industry.

The change in approach to cannabis policy in Jamaica was achieved through the advocacy work of several cultural based groups and grassroots organisations such as the Rastafarian movement and traditional Ganja Growers Associations in the island. The role of these actor networks was critical to shaping the type of policy framework that has developed in Jamaica.

One of the major policy outcomes that have occurred is the recognition that the use of substances or plants such as cannabis has cultural significance, and therefore any policy framework that is developed should take this into account. Additionally, it is important that key actors such as the cultivators “drug crops” be engaged in the policy process from the initial stages. The case of Jamaica, has implications not only for the wider Caribbean, but also provides an alternative policy approach (a cultural approach) to prohibitions.