Alaska yesterday became the third state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and now a country where you would have thought that was the case already is moving closer to that goal itself. Jamaica's parliament last night approved a law decriminalizing small amounts of pot, the AP reports. People found with 2 ounces or less of marijuana will now simply receive a ticket—not a crime on their record—and cultivation of five plants or fewer is now allowed. A licensing agency was also established to oversee pot cultivation and distribution for medical and scientific efforts. Rastafarians are rejoicing, because the bill also grants them the legal right to use cannabis for sacramental purposes, while tourists who have medical marijuana prescriptions elsewhere can pay for permits to buy a bit of ganja on the island.
Jamaica has shied away from decriminalization because it didn't want to risk violating international treaties and provoking US sanctions, the Guardian reports. The process for the new law was described by National Security Minister Peter Bunting as an "elephantine," nearly 40-year effort, ABC Australia reports. "[The law] eliminates an unnecessary source of friction between police and citizens, and ensures that our young people are not gratuitously shackled with criminal records," he said in a statement. Jamaica also hopes to boost its health tourism and medical marijuana industries and make it a major player in the pot product market, the Guardian notes. International exporting, however, remains a no-no. A US counternarcotics official told the AP in an email that "Jamaican law is of course Jamaica's own business," but warned that drug trafficking into the US is still illegal. (Read more Jamaica stories.)