By Andrea Delgado

Ganja in Jamaica is earning a new reputation.

“Growing up as a Rastafarian, I decided I was not going to sit down and watch Rastafari and grass roots people being continually persecuted for a plant.” – Ras Iyah-V

Cannabis is one of the most commonly-used herbs around the world. Despite deep roots in Jamaican culture, dating back to the 1920s, ganja was only legalized by the Ministry of Jamaica in 2015. For the first time in decades, Jamaicans can now use the herb for personal, medicinal and religious uses. For those that embrace a Rastafari lifestyle, this recent legislation although strongly enforced, was a progressive step toward the acceptance of marijuana use.

The Ganja Law outlined by the Jamaican Observer as a “balancing act that did not legalise the use of ganja, but created the framework for the decriminalisation of offences under the act.”

Under this law, the possession of more than two ounces of cannabis, is considered an offence. Ganja can only be consumed within personal residencies among friends and family and cannot be used for commercial purposes. The only people exempt from these restrictions are the Rastafari’s who are allowed to transport unlimited quantities of ganja for religious practices only.


Rastafari is more than a religion, it’s a lifestyle. Originating from Africa, Rastafari came to be following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as the King of Ethiopia. Rastafarian culture has strict views on language, diet, reggae, afterlife and most notably their use of cannabis in everyday life.

It was the emergence of Rastafarian culture that cemented the culture of ganja in Jamaica. The “holy herb” is used in a spiritual sense and is smoked during religious ceremonies to aid in meditation and a deeper connection with “Jah” the Rastafari God. One of the most notable Rasta leaders in Jamaica Ras Iyah-V – who founded the Westmoreland Hemp & Ganja Farmers Association (WHGFA) – has been at the forefront of the push for recognition of Rastafari religious rights, including the use of ganja during ceremony.

Ras Iyah-V represents and protects farmers who grow and harvest the cannabis of Westmoreland in Jamaica in order to keep the industry alive. Ras Iyah-V explains how growing up Rastafari, he wasn’t going to let himself and other Rastafari and grassroot individuals continue to be prosecuted for using a plant. From there Ras Iyah-V organized marches and wrote letters to the Government of Jamaica to acknowledge the rights of Rastafari. As a result, the Ministry of Jamaica decriminalized the plant’s use.

Pleased with the outcome of the Ganja Law, Ras Iyah-V hopes to continue guiding the Government of Jamaica in its cannabis regulation efforts.


As ganja continues to be appreciated in Jamaican culture, event attendees can look forward to farm tours and speaker series, featuring ganja evangelist Ras Iyah-V.

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