KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Jamaica is considering the legalization of marijuana, a drug revered by members of the island's large Rastafarian population who say smoking it is part of their religion.
A seven-member government commission has been researching possible changes to the Caribbean nation's anti-drug laws, which some police complain are clogging courts and jails with marijuana-related cases, a government official said Friday.
"We have discussed it, and we are preparing a report to present to the prime minister," said Deputy Prime Minister Kenneth Baugh.
In 2003, a government commission recommended legalizing marijuana in small amounts for personal use. But lawmakers never acted, saying legalization might entail loss of their country's U.S. anti-drug certification. Countries that lose it face economic sanctions.
A U.S. State Department report Friday said that Jamaica is the largest producer of marijuana in the Caribbean and a major hub for drugs bound for the United States.
Members of the Rastafarian movement, which emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s out of anger over the oppression of blacks, have long lobbied for the legalization of the drug that they say brings them closer to the divine.
There are an estimated 700,000 Rastafarians in the world, most of them among Jamaica's 2.6 million people.