Many of these people were guarded by private security forces. Even though the island is known for “Irie” vibes and “One Love,” I was told that tourists must be careful and alert.
I’ve visited Jamaica several times since then, in love with its balmy weather, reggae music, spicy foods, luscious fruits, verdant landscapes, sandy beaches, Rasta roots, and plentiful ganja.
You can have a magnificent vacation in Jamaica, because quality marijuana is less expensive there than anywhere else in the world, and because the island’s climate, culture, waterfalls, beaches and ocean are so wonderful to enjoy while high.
Some of the sweetest, strongest, smartest, and most honorable people in the world live in Jamaica, but I am compelled to tell you – Jamaica is not “Holland in the Caribbean.” You have to plan well and find ethical businesspeople and allies if you are to safely enjoy Bob Marley’s homeland.
Cannabis Culture was chosen by Lost Beach Resort, in the parish of Westmoreland, for a major promotional contest that included a free trip to the resort as a grand prize.
I visited Lost Beach to make sure it was good enough for Cannabis Culture readers, and was impressed by its quality rooms, sparkling pool, sizzling Jacuzzi, gourmet restaurant and bar, and undeveloped coastline.
I swam, ate tasty meals, and drank superb rum drinks made with locally grown coconuts, mango, and other fruits in the resort’s attractive restaurant-bar. Stoned on ganja food and cannadrinks, I spent my evenings walking miles of rugged coastline past rusting sugar cane boats, watching natural phosphorescence sparkle in the waves and around my footsteps.
Like many Jamaican resorts, Lost Beach is a First World enclave surrounded by Third World reality. It is far more ganjafied and accessible than the famous “all-inclusive” resorts like Hedonism and Sandals that are opulent fortresses dedicated to gluttony, swinging sex and alcohol. Hedonism-style resorts cost as much as $500 US per night; they use barbed wire, imposing walls, and guards to shield tourists from socioeconomic inequities and cultural misunderstandings.
The all-inclusives usually won’t harass ganja users, but guests are expected to herbalize only in their rooms or discretely on the beach. At some smaller lodgings, and especially in accommodations like Lost Beach that advertise in our magazine, guests can herbalize almost anywhere.
Brother Leeroy’s B&B
If you want to visit Jamaica, probably the most ganja-friendly place you can stay is a small bed and breakfast three miles west of Ochos Rios, near the famous Dunn’s River waterfalls.
The “Serenity” guest villa is owned and managed by long-time marijuana activist Brother Leeroy Campbell and his wife Jan.
Campbell says the home is in a beautiful, quiet and secure location, decorated with flowers and shaded by indigenous vegetation.
Brother Leeroy has been a prominent marijuana advocate in America, Canada and Jamaica. He founded Vancouver’s Hempfest Times newsletter in 1992, and was part of the earliest Marc Emery organizations, including HempBC and the Little Grow Shop.
In Jamaica, Leeroy and Jan have been presenting their “Green Revolution” seminar in public forums and in the media.
“The revolution will succeed when Jamaicans are allowed to grow, sell and market marijuana and hemp for any purpose they want to,” Leeroy says. “From tourism to nutrition, Jamaica is uniquely able to save its people by running an economy based on the ganja plant. This common sense proposal is opposed by the US government, some police forces, and the fundamentalist churches, but the people are for it.”
Leeroy is a National Democratic Movement candidate for Parliament; his primary political agenda is to raise living standards and ensure a just society for Jamaicans by legalizing ganja.
Alone among Jamaican tourist service providers, Leeroy unequivocally promises that his guests will have high quality ganja experiences.
“Jamaica is a great place to enjoy the healing herb,” he said. “There are almost always going to be many opportunities for guests to get great ganja and see ganja growing. We take care of guests as if they are family.”
I use ganja primarily as a medicine and performance enhancer for activities such as yoga, swimming, music, and meditation. When I’m high, I want peace and privacy. In some Jamaican tourist lodgings, I did not have 100% safety and privacy, and this interfered with my ability to enjoy altered consciousness.
Perimeter security is important because tourists are sometimes viewed as cash cows or even as unwanted intruders. In general, Jamaicans are some of the most honorable people in the world. Some of the best experiences I’ve had on the island came about by happenstance, at a roadside soup and dumplings stand, painted with Rasta symbols and ganja leaves, where I ate a scintillating meal and smoked spliffs with people who wanted to know why Americans let George W Bush steal the presidency.
“I and I thought it be a democracy there,” said one young man. “It be just like Jamaica – the rich folk rule every person.”
Good vibes abound in Jamaica, but don’t be na?ve: some people’s friendliness is designed to get you to open your wallet. If you’re even remotely interested in transacting serious business, especially ganja business, precisely spell out exactly what you want and make clear, respectfully but firmly, that you won’t be tricked or bullied. And just like in any other travel situation, you must avoid places or circumstances that can lead to trouble. The island has pockets of poverty and crime that tourists should definitely stay away from.
Several tourists told me stories that reinforced the perception that foreigners need to be cautious in Jamaica, and several female and gay tourists told me they had endured crude sexual harassment or homophobia.
Cultural and language misunderstandings between tourists and residents can occur in Jamaica, as it can anywhere. The island’s residents have long been victimized by slavery, and by a corrupt socioeconomic and governmental system that breeds anger and frustration. Tourists must behave with caution and fairness if they want to create positive experiences in Jamaica, but there are some places, such as Kingston, that are particularly ill-suited for ganja tourism experiences. Query hoteliers, guide books, and tour operators before you plan your itinerary.
Owners and managers of most Jamaican tourist establishments do not openly advertise their ability to provide ganja, but many of them can discreetly get it for you or hook you up with reputable dealers. Their paranoia is legitimate: despite the recommendations of the recent Chevannes Commission (CC #37, Jamaica’s ganja study), ganja is still illegal.
Tourists and residents face highway checkpoints, shake-downs and other police-generated dangers. You can generally bribe your way out of most ganja-related problems, but some tourists have suffered severe physical and financial harm because they were careless or unlucky in their possession of Jah’s herb.
Nevertheless, cannabis is widely available from private vendors, from roadside shops, and from service providers such as taxi drivers and masseuses.
To get ganja for the photographs in my articles, I showed Cannabis Culture budshots to would-be dealers. Even though the pictures showed phat, crystal-laden buds, some suppliers tried to sell me thin, dark, pressed stems with few real buds on them.
One supplier offered “locally-grown magic mushrooms.” Several cafes sell magic mushroom tea in the Negril area, but the tea’s effects are more medicinal than recreational.
I agreed to pay no more than $20 for the shrooms. The supplier returned with mushrooms of the magical variety, but also wanted to sell some large white mushrooms. He said that if I didn’t buy them, I would be “insulting” him. Subsequently, I determined that the white mushrooms were poisonous. The other mushrooms were authentic hallucinogenic shrooms, but far weaker than those I’ve sampled in Holland and North America.
Fortunately, I was able to get a good collection of quality marijuana. During several weeks of procuring cannabis from several sellers, I spent $600 for about 15 ounces of good-looking herb. Residents told me I could have bought several pounds of marijuana for that price, if only I had been a “better negotiator.” The average “tourist price” for quality ganja is approximately 20-45 US dollars per ounce.
Approximately 35% of the herb I purchased was seeded, but all of it was potent, fresh, tasty, outdoor and organically-grown, and mostly Sativa. Using taste, odor, color, bud pattern and psychoactivity as benchmarks, I determined that my $600 had purchased at least ten distinctly different kinds of marijuana.
Some varieties looked like heirloom marijuana that had been smuggled in the Caribbean in the 1960’s and 70’s, including classic Colombian Gold, Panama Red, and Mexican Oaxacan, along with original Jamaican varieties known as Collie Weed or Lamb’s Bread.
Bugs, droughts, police, robbers, and non-equatorial cannabis genetics are the main problems facing Jamaican growers, who tell of sleeping in their fields to guard them from thieves.
Older ganjaphiles fondly recalled the 1970’s ganja export boom, when clandestine airstrips, fast fortunes, “dead fools,” and wild nights on the open ocean created an optimistic sense that Jamaica’s ganja industry would allow the country to become economically independent using sustainable ganjaculture.
“We knew that we should do what them Dutch do,” one wizened fisherman said. “Keep the soldiers and police out of our fields. Don’t send all de weed out on de boats. Sell it in shops, bars and hotels. Jamaicans know how to use the herb in teas and in the chillum, so people can come here and have fun with our herb, and we have jobs. Soldiers steal the ganja and sell it themselves and took our boats. Now you see lot more poor people. That’s from them mashing down the ganja trade. If we could legalize it, we’d save this island.”
Some ganja resorts and individuals offer tourists the chance to see an “authentic marijuana garden,” for a fee, of course.
I booked an afternoon garden photography expedition, and was shooting in a remote area where ganja was being raised on bat guano and other locally available nutrients. The plants were perky, emerald, and well-tended. The air was humid. The blazing sun was filtered by thunderstorm haze.
All was sweet until a crop-tender suddenly accused me of being a “CIA agent.” He reasoned that because I was Caucasian, had short hair and a lot of cameras, I was a spy. I explained to my accuser that I write articles critical of the CIA’s tactics and charter while hastily packing my gear and heading to where my rental bicycle was parked near the road.
When I was in full view of other townspeople, I reminded the field owner that I had paid him a hefty photo access fee, and that I felt ripped off by the sudden closure of the heavenly photo session and deeply insulted by the CIA accusations.
“In the USA, we find out if somebody is a government agent by offering to smoke pot with them,” I told the two guys. “If they use illegal drugs during an undercover operation, their testimony might be impeached in court because they are allegedly impaired and broke the law they were sworn to uphold. So let’s roll a spliff and see who smokes.”
Intrigued, the grower looked suspiciously at my accuser, rolled a joint, and lit it.
He passed it to me, and I took a monster hit, making sure the smoke came out of my nose to prove that I had inhaled. I got stoned, but I also felt dizzy, because the grower had mixed commercial tobacco, that useless concoction that gets you addicted and cancerous but not high, in with his fine outdoor bud.
Then came the moment of truth. Would my accuser take a hit? No! He said he couldn’t handle ganja.
Lessons learned? Never go into the bush without a security escort. And, if you are a CIA agent, get your ass out of Jamaica, because the guys with machetes are not playing games!
I booked a few days in Montego Bay and Negril. Part of my journey to the cities took place after dark; night driving in Jamaica is a roulette wheel of accidents waiting to happen.
A quintet of college student Cannabis Culture fans were on the cliffs near Negril, and we spent an afternoon doing “smoke bombs.” This involves taking a huge hit off a chalice or spliff, and then jumping off the cliffs into azure water 40 feet below, only letting the smoke come out once you are airborne or under water. The rush was incredible, especially if the hit was your first ganja inhalation of the day.
“I love this place,” exclaimed Andrea, a comely lass in a crochet bikini. “We flew in to Kingston, had lunch, spent the afternoon at the Bob Marley museum on Hope Road, then we flew back to Montego Bay and have been hanging out around Negril. It’s funky, but fun, and the weed is so strong and way cheap.”
Andrea said she was glad she was part of a mixed-gender group visiting Jamaica.
“This would be a bit scary for me if I was on my own, or if it was just me and another girl here for the first time,” she admitted. “There’s a bit of pressure, sexually I mean, and sometimes I have felt a little menaced by some things that were said or done. It hasn’t ruined my vacation, but I’ve felt glad to have some guy friends from back home with me.”
On the beach in Negril, I enjoyed a salty spliff with sunburned German tourists while trying to get away from peddlers who accosted me every few minutes, offering carvings, cocaine, girls, and ganja. One dealer’s “cocaine” looked like baby powder but tasted like sugar.
By now I had realized that a dealer’s bark was usually worse than his bite, so I laughed and asked, “How many dummies buy this?” He smiled back, flashing a gold tooth, and said, “A lot of them, mon, but they afraid to complain. I and I got a sharp machete.”
In Montego Bay, on the town’s self-proclaimed “Hip Strip,” I enjoyed the white sand beach at Doctor’s Cave, dancing at the “Reggae Garden” and some rockin’ outdoor cafes.
At my hotel, a beautiful female desk clerk warned that some street dealers were actually undercover agents. She offered to provide “special room service,” and “some nice flowers” that turned out to be $60 an ounce lime-green crystalbuds that smelled like roses ? but it could have just been her perfume.
When vacation time is running out in Jamaica, I begin to creatively run through my stash. At a gourmet Indian restaurant on the MoBay strip, I ordered a samovar containing black tea, milk, cream, cane sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and other exotic spices. I jammed in an ounce of herb, let it steep for 20 minutes, and then poured a green Caribbean version of “bhang” that packed a terpenoid taste and a tremendous wallop.
The waiter, a polite, good-natured lad, watched me make the drink, and he wanted some. He drank a cup, wincing at the taste. Later, he bounded over to the table with a stellar smile on his face, and glassy red eyes. I handed him a bag containing a half an ounce of small buds- his tip. I similarly tipped the maid, the beach lifeguard, and my airport taxi driver. Their smiles lit up the day like sunshine.
I complained to the hotel girl about having to leave my herb on the island, but US Customs ferociously inspects planes and passengers arriving from Jamaica, so I had no choice. She disagreed, cheerfully offering to take me to a nearby hovel, where her “friend” would compress a half pound of herb in a hydraulic device, load it into condoms, and then jam them down my throat- all for only $150 US.
“All you gotta do is shit it in the USA, and you’ll be filthy rich” she assured me, adding, “Girls have it a little easier, if you know what I mean – we’re built for smuggling.”
I declined her bowel-rending proposal, and on my day of departure visited a small park just outside the front gates of Montego Bay airport, where a stylish wedding party was being photographed.
I smoked bowl after spicy bowl of sweet Sativa – the kind that uplifts you softly into the billowing cottony clouds – while the good-looking couple, and their families, posed nearby.
Too soon, I felt the premonitory shadow of a plane arcing north, and realized it was time to slink through the security checkpoints and lash myself into the winged missile for the sobering ride back to DEAland.
I sadly bundled my forbidden flowers, walked up to the newlyweds, and handed them a most potent wedding bouquet.
The following guidebooks are essential for planning a great Jamaican vacation:
? The rough guide to Jamaica, by Polly Thomas
? Lonely Planet – Jamaica
? The rough guide to the music of Jamaica
? Adventure Guides: Jamaica
? From Babylon to Rastafari, by Douglas Mack
? Rasta Heart, by Robert Roskind
? Jamaica underground: Caves, sinkholes and underground rivers of Jamaica
? The naked truth about Hedonism II, by Chris Santilli
Special congratulations to James in Alabama, who was the lucky winner of our super subscriber give-away promotion! James is heading off to Jamaica’s fabulous Lost Beach Resort with a pal, for a ganja-licious all-expense paid week for two! He also scored a ton of CC backissues and kewl merchandise. Congratulations also to all the runners-up, who received a variety of awesome prizes! We love our subscribers!