The Jamaican government has launched a publicity campaign to bust myths about cannabis including a song about how “ganja can boost lives”.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness launched the “Good Ganja Sense” campaign in a bid to legitimise and promote the Caribbean nation’s growing medical weed industry.
The campaign’s jingle includes lyrics about how “ganja can boost lives” by contributing to the economy through entrepreneurship, farming and scientific research. The publicity campaign also features adverts on buses saying “Burn ganja myths: not everything you hear about ganja is true” and “Go with the science: our scientists are learning more about ganja”.
The campaign’s website debunks myths that cannabis makes people lazy, lowers sperm count, cannot cause fatal overdoses and is a gateway drug to more dangerous drugs. It notes the drug cannot cause fatal overdoses, quoting a US Drug Enforcement Agency factsheet stating no deaths have been caused by weed alone. “Thanks DEA. The experts have spoken,” the site says.
“Ganja will no longer be underpinned by what has been passed down through oral traditions and old tales, but fact-based information that is now available at the fingertips,” said head of the ministry, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn on Monday.
“We know very well too, the ills and thrills associated with the internet – much false health information has been spread far and wide. But now, with science and technology combined, Jamaica has in its arsenal a resource that puts into context, legislation, medical information and an overall evidence-based dialogue that can change the attitudes and behaviours that Jamaicans hold towards ganja.”
In 2015, under the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act, Jamaica legalised medical cannabis, decriminalised possession of personal amounts under two ounces and expunged minor convictions for possessing cannabis. In 2018 Andrew Wheatley, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, said Jamaica should stake its claim on local weed strains and said weed is “our birthright”. However, growing, selling and using weed for recreational use remains banned.
Some observers think the new campaign does not go far enough in challenging attitudes around cannabis.
Vicki Hanson, an expert on Jamaica’s weed industry and retail executive at Itopia Life, a cannabis dispensary based in Kingston, told VICE World News: “It’s a step forward from the previous stance about avoiding ganja completely. And the government wants to monetise the industry and make cultivation a viable business. But the language is still very prohibitionist and is all about how you are officially supposed to use cannabis medically.
“We need to change the discourse, to go further, and examine more traditional use of cannabis and make sure we incorporate into this industry the people who have been criminalised for cultivating cannabis, and how their livelihoods fit into this change. We don’t want to yield too much to the corporate image of cannabis.”