The Jamaican government announced last week it plans to allow for personal possession of cannabis up to two ounces and decriminalize the drug for medicinal and religious purposes.

The Parliament will vote on the matter in the autumn.

The move, according to multiple media sources, will help unclog the country’s court system and place tourists who smoke marijuana on the island at ease.

However, Cordell Riley, a Bermudian statistician who served on the Cannabis Reform Collaborative here, said there is no guarantee the bill will pass, but does think there are similarities between Jamaica and Bermuda when it comes to prospective cannabis reform.

“Public opinion has shifted but the government believes that there are risks, even if they are not political,” he said. 

Under the plan, according to USA Today, Jamaica’s government will also expunge the criminal records of people who were convicted for smoking small amounts of marijuana.

Cannabis reform has been a long battle in Jamaica, as far back as 2001 the country’s National Commission on Ganja recommended decriminalization, according to The Economist.

In that report, according to The Washington Post, the commission said marijuana’s “reputation among the people as a panacea and a spiritually enhancing substance is so strong that it must be regarded as culturally entrenched”.

Part of the reason the government was reluctant to enact reform may lie with their northern neighbours.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, was recently quoted in USA Today as saying Jamaica feared a “hostile US response” to the decriminalization of the drug.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Bermuda is wrangling with a similar issue.

Currently, a conviction for possession of cannabis can complicate travel plans to America for Bermudians. Those with such a charge on their record often have to seek a travel waiver. And if Bermuda does opt for decriminalization, the prospective problems of being denied entry to the US or requesting a travel waiver will likely remain, since most decriminalization models involve a party making an admission of guilt. That’s enough to complicate travel plans to the US.

“Should the bill pass in Jamaica, and persons are ‘ticketed,’ perhaps in the same way parking tickets are given, they could still have challenges with the United States,” said Mr Riley. “By ticketing, you will have been found guilty of an offence even if you do not have to appear in court. If that information is made public somehow, persons could still be denied entry into the US as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.”

The cannabis reform is already making waves internationally. According to the Jamaica Observer, the Cannabis Movement of St Lucia was concerned by the proposed changes. That movement claimed the initiative would “break ranks with the position adopted by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)” to deal with marijuana reform on a regional basis. 

Bermuda is currently in the midst of considering overhauling its cannabis laws.