Inside the Fight Over Jamaica’s Ganja Gold Rush

Smoking ganja is (now) legal in Jamaica. But will foreigners control the market?

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05 May 2019, 11:26pm

ORANGE HILL, Jamaica — It's hard to believe lighting up a joint was illegal in Jamaica until about four years ago. But since a 2015 law change, individuals can have a small amount of ganja for personal use, medical sales are allowed, and ganja tourism is on the rise. Which all means permits are being issued for growers and other ganja-related businesses.

The question that worries locals is: Who's going to profit from this? Jamaicans, or somebody else?

The ganja gold rush has attracted foreign investors pumping in money and setting up shop on the island. Smaller local farmers, many of whom had been harassed and punished for growing in the past, simply can’t compete. It now costs $2,000 for a growing license and $10,000 for a distributor's license, and the application process can be difficult.

“I'm not saying all of these investors coming in are evil,” says Ras Iyah V, an activist who's been fighting for ganja legalization for years. “I'm just saying most of these coming in are concerned with money. About making money out of an industry that our people have suffered for.”

VICE News visited Jamaica to find out what the future of ganja is on the island.

This segment originally aired April 25, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.