Cannabis in Jamaica

Ganja, Collie, Kiki, Sinsemilla...cannabis has plenty of different names, especially in Jamaica, a small Caribbean island known around the world for its long relationship with this plant.

Indeed, Jamaica is a true place of reference with regard to cannabis cultivation for smokers worldwide. Its tropical climate and fertile soil are ideal for the cultivation of cannabis plants, especially Sativas. Moreover, it is also the place where the Rastafari movement was born, which promotes a religious use of ganja and has a large number of followers in the island. Still, the use of cannabis is widely spread among all social classes - not only Rastafarians - and is doubtless one of the most popular crops in the island. In this article we'll tell you more about the relation of cannabis with this small Caribbean paradise.

7-mile Beach, Jamaica
7-mile Beach, Jamaica

Introduction of cannabis in Jamaica

Being British colony until 1962, Jamaica is a traditional producer of sugar, also cotton during the slavery period. The indigenous people from the island - the Arawak tribe - were exterminated before the arrival of the British by the Spanish colonizers, while the Commonwealth government forced thousands of slaves to move from Western Africa to Jamaica to work on plantations.

After the abolition of slavery in 1838, and while many slaves abandoned their work in Jamaica, the Brisitsh Empire used manpower from other colonies to substitute them, as is the case of India. Around 33.000 workers from India left their country during the XIX century to work in Jamaica. This migration is likely to be the cause of the introduction of cannabis seeds into the island, between 1850 and 1860.

Thus, the different techniques to grow cannabis and process it were taught to local Jamaican farmers by these migrant workers from Asia, who also gave them the first seeds to grow. The influence from India can also be seen in terms like "ganja", which comes from the word ?g?ñj?? (which means cannabis or cannabis resin) and that is widely used by the Jamaican community.

Strain Hunters in Jamaica
Strain Hunters in Jamaica

Prohibition of cannabis in Jamaica dates back from 1913 with the Dangerous Drug Act - also known as The Ganja Law - which prohibited possession, cultivation and sale of cannabis (under penalty of imprisonment). Still, things have changed considerably during the past years, and actually both the medical and spiritual uses are legal since 2015.

Jamaican cannabis genetics

Cannabis prohibition, globalisation, Internet and many other factors play a role in the fact that landrace strains from Jamaica have been gradually replaced by modern feminised seeds, mostly hybrids. Actually, some of the traditional Jamaican strains that can be found today, as the legendary Lambs Bread, have Skunk genes in them since the 80's.

To find true, pure Jamaican genetics can be a very tough goal, as we could see during our trip in 2016 for the Steppin High Festival. Sadly, most weed available today in the island is miles away from the famous Jamaican weed praised by Reggae artists in the 70's. In contrast, we were regularly offered some of the, supposedly, most renowned hybrids of the cannabis seed market: White Widow, Amnesia...even Girl Scout Cookies!

Jamaican Sativas are still being grown by some farmers
Jamaican Sativas are still being grown by some farmers

However, and if you know the right people, you can still find some traditional cannabis crops in the island, especially in the Blue Mountains area and the parish of Santa Ana, where locals go to get the best weed in the island!

The Orange Hill area also gathers many ganja farmers, although modern European or American hybrids are mainly grown there, obviously looking for better profit. You can actually book a guided tour through the plantations with other tourists!

Popularity of cannabis in Jamaica

While the traditional use of cannabis in Jamaica dates back from more than 150 years, it was not until the decade of 1970 when both the Rastafarian movement from the island and Reggae music  - and thus, weed - skyrocketed in popularity. The international success of some Jamaican reggae artists also democratized in some way the use of cannabis around the world and out of the Rasta community. People like Bob Marley or Peter Tosh claimed their love for the plant in many of their songs, as well as the medicinal properties of cannabis. As we mentioned, ganja is widely used across the territory by people from all types of social context.

After the legalisation of cannabis in other countries like Uruguay or some of the states of the USA, and after years of debate with the pro cannabis local associations, the Jamaican government finally decided to allow possession of smal amounts (around 50g) for medical or religious use in 2015. The new law also allows the government to issue licenses to develop the medical cannabis industry in the island, also scientific research. Last but not least, every person is allowed to grow up to 5 plants at home.

Weed, Jamaica...and Alchimia!
Weed, Jamaica...and Alchimia!

Soon after the law was endorsed, a number of cannabis-related festivals and events were announced. Mainly held at the Negril region, which offers a unique space for tourists and locals to enjoy the beautiful beaches and white sands, they're events as prestigious as Rootzfest, Steppin High Festival, Dab-a-Doo or the legendary High Times Cannabis Cup.

Cannabis clubs have also flourished across the country, which - as proven in Barcelona - highly improve the growing and processing techniques and thus the final product, also for resin extracts. Other independent associations, like Scarce Commodity, are focused on quality control of the cultivation, processing and distribution practices, which in turn increases the quality of the weed produced in the territory.

Jamaica was, is and - we hope - will be a true paradise for any lover of the cannabis plant.

Finally, Jamaica seems to offer cannabis a bright and sunny future!

Articles and publications used for the writing of this article:


The articles published by Alchimiaweb, S.L. are reserved for adult clients only. We would like to remind our customers that cannabis seeds are not listed in the European Community catalogue. They are products intended for genetic conservation and collecting, in no case for cultivation. In some countries it is strictly forbidden to germinate cannabis seeds, other than those authorised by the European Union. We recommend our customers not to infringe the law in any way, we are not responsible for their use.
2018-06-01 News and Events

Comments in “Cannabis in Jamaica” (1)

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Tallistgenetics 2021-05-15
As someone who is a native to jamaica, the narrative that our original sativa strains are now hybridized is a complete lie. If a tourist visits the island your mostly going to find buzz strains so that you buy the weed. The real genetics are presserved by the same farmers who sell the popular stuff, they are afraid of capitalism which is why you would never get a old man to show u his 15 foot landrace, stop saying we are over run by western strains, its only for consumption that we grow those. The most dominant genetic line in jamaica contrary to belief is between 90's skunk #1 and afghani. The most popular native strains among locals is the Purple Skunk (a seed created by dutch passion which has been discontinued ) and White I.C.E. ( indica crystal extreme).

Alchimia Staff

Tim Alchimia 2021-05-19
Hi, thanks for your comment and contribution to our blog, it's fascinating to hear the perspective of a native Jamaican. However, I think you must have misread our article because we clearly state that it's not very easy but "if you know the right people, you can still find some traditional cannabis crops in the island, especially in the Blue Mountains area and the parish of Santa Ana, where locals go to...". It's also interesting to see the varieties that you name as being the most dominant and popular genetic lines in Jamaica, a selection of strains that definitely lend weight to the claim that the island is "over run by western strains", although that's not really what we wrote, we simply said the more or less the same as you, that what most people grow to sell is some form of Dutch or US hybridized variety and not, as a general rule, the traditional Jamaican landrace sativas! It's widely accepted that prohibition and police pressure led to Jamaican growers using shorter-flowering hybrids to increase their chances of harvesting before potentially being raided. Hopefully, with legalization, these old long flowering time varieties will be able to come out from hiding and start to be enjoyed by everyone soon. All the best and happy growing!

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