Jamaica’s “Ganja Tours” Draw Tourists

Jamaica's cannabis tours

An Associated Press article reports that, although Jamaica is mainly a conservative country, cannabis connoisseurs are now able “to enjoy trips to hidden plantations and sample strains of the drug that inspired Bob Marley.”

California’s Napa and Sonoma have their wine tours, and travellers flock to Scotland to sample the fine single malt whiskies. But in Jamaica, farmers are offering a different kind of trip for a different type of connoisseur. Call them ganja tours: smoky, mystical – and technically illegal – journeys to some of the island’s hidden cannabis plantations, where pot tourists can sample such strains as “purple kush” and “pineapple skunk”.

The tours pass through places such as Nine Mile, the tiny hometown of reggae legend, and famous pot-lover, Bob Marley. Here, in Jamaica’s verdant central mountains, dreadlocked men escort curious visitors to a farm where deep-green marijuana plants grow. Similar tours are offered just outside the western resort of Negril, where a marijuana mystique has drawn weed-smoking holidaymakers for decades. “This one here is the original sinsemilla, Bob Marley’s favourite. And this one here is the chocolate skunk. It’s special for the ladies,” a pot farmer nicknamed “Breezy” told a reporter as he showed off several varieties on his plot one recent morning.

Jamaica's ganja tours

While US legalisation drives have scored major victories in recent months in places like Colorado and Washington state, and the government of Uruguay is moving toward getting into the pot business itself, the plant is still illegal in Jamaica. Some would like to see that change, with advocates saying that marijuana could help Jamaica boost its struggling economy. Justice minister Mark Golding told the Associated Press the government was aware of legalisation efforts elsewhere, and called the issue “dynamic and evolving quickly”. [. . .] The Ganja Law Reform Coalition, an island group calling for the government to decriminalise and regulate pot, is preparing to host an international conference in the capital, Kingston, this month – where topics will include prospects for commercialising cannabis.

Despite its laid-back image, Jamaica is mainly a conservative, religious place and many people bristle at the country’s Rasta reputation. Marijuana has been pervasive but prohibited on the island since 1913. The illicit marijuana crop has declined since the 1970s due to global competition and the US-led war on drugs.

[. . .] In Nine Mile, Breezy says Americans, Germans and increasingly Russians have visited his small farm and sampled his crop. There were no takers for the $50 (£32) tour this morning among a couple of busloads of cruise-ship tourists arriving at Bob Marley’s childhood home, though more than a dozen lined up enthusiastically to buy bags of weed from Breezy’s friends, sold through a hole in the wall of the museum compound. [. . .]

[Photos by David McFadden.]

For full article, see http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/09/jamaica-ganja-tours-draw-tourists

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