DrugsPublished Jan 1, 1999
Marijuana, or ganja as its known locally, is illegal throughout Jamaica. Does this mean that you won’t see it? Not at all.
Marijuana can be found virtually everywhere. We’ve seen Rastas smoking spliffs the size of cigars right along the roadside. If you take a tourist bus from Montego Bay to Negril, you’ll see vendors jump from behind a tree with a wad of ganja and a cigarette the size of a small baton as the bus slows down to make a sharp turn.
TIP: The open flaunting of drugs is a major turnoff for tourists, who often feel threatened. However, we’ve found that politeness, coupled with firmness and respect, brings an end to the discussion without anger.
But, for all the smooth talk of these professional sellers, remember that marijuana is illegal. Drug penalties are becoming stiffer, and drug prevention measures more stringent. Customs screens bags of passengers both leaving and entering the country, using dogs in most cases.
The come-ons to tourists vary from vendor to vendor, but expect to be approached by friendly young men who introduce themselves by name, shake your hand and ask, “is this your first time to Jamaica?” Other approaches include, “Remember me from yesterday?” and “I met your friend down the beach.” From there the offers extend from motorcycle rides to see fields of ganja to attempts at selling “party stuff” or “stuff I grew myself.”
As is the case with market and beach vendors, dealing with drug entrepreneurs requires firm politeness. “No, thank you” will generally end the transaction. Stay cool, move on, and realize that these businessmen are just out to make a buck, which on this island is not always an easy proposition.
Adventure travelers should keep in mind that marijuana is grown in fields on the island and that the farmers are fiercely protective of their crop. While exploring off the beaten path, be sure you know where you’re headed. Talk with local guides and tourist offices about your planned route so that you don’t find yourself stumbling upon a well-guarded ganja field.
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