Bag juice, gizzadas, rosemary, and ginseng. Just a few of the things that have always been the bread and butter for poor people. Many parents have sent their children to school and made better lives for themselves and their families by selling bumboclaat weed. While I am yet to see dispensaries for these products, the same cannot be said for cannabis. Affectionately referred to as Mary, sensimilla, ganja, among other names, it’s always been surprisingly easy to secure a ‘bills bag’. With new dispensaries popping up island wide, this looks like a hostile takeover. It seems making ganja mainstream has been a great move for the already wealthy and the bumboclaat politicians involved. But what about the original farmers? The ones who have watched their fields burn time and time again? One would think that they’d be the first to jump on board the licensing train. Once again the rich get richer still. The rest just get more and more oppressed.

A ganja farm in St. Elizabeth. Image by the Jamaica Observer

Noticeably, we haven’t seen any Grange Hill dispensaries or Orange Hill dispensaries. Instead, you can purchase your medicinal marijuana from the uptown dispensaries. Those who can afford it will visit the dispensaries while the farmers in the country continue to get arrested and charged. And you can’t get a ganja license if you have a criminal record. So what happens to the farmers who were arrested for weed before the decriminalization? These are the bumboclaat farmers who drew tourists to the island. These are the hands that helped to build our tourism industry. So instead of getting 7 bumboclaat acres of perfectly good grades ready for export, fields of cash continue to be burned. Why haven’t we created a program that makes it easier for these farmers to get legal? That could have been another success story like that of the Accompong farmers who can now grow marijuana legally. Why in a time when dispensaries abroad are complaining about a shortage of weed would you destroy a perfectly profitable product?

Ganja smoker rolling up a spliff. Image by the campcabarita.com

To add insult to injury, the bumboclaat license fees are quoted in US dollars. You’ll be shelling US$10,000 for the transportation license alone. And that only covers the first bumboclaat vehicle. Plus you have the cultivator’s license fees, processing fees, retail fees, and so on. This just goes to show how inaccessible the legal ganja industry is for people who already depend on it. The bumboclaat farmers who made this name for Jamaica are the real Brand Jamaica as foreign countries were practically begging to import ganja from us even before decriminalization. And while exporting is great and all, what about the people who hustle smaller quantities in the dance and on the corner? Their hard work earned us this ‘ganja capital’ reputation now enjoyed by people who can’t even roll a bumboclaat spliff. Where do they fall in this licensing process?

Pre-harvest marijuana field in Jamaica. Image by myislandjamaica.com

How many Jamaicans will be willing to buy dispensary weed regularly if you need to see a doctor before you can get a bumboclaat spliff? And while it is great that the dispensaries offer a wide variety of kush strains, there is still the matter of stretching the dollar to get a reasonable quantity for the amount of money that you’ll be spending per visit. There’s also the convenience that comes with buying weed from a legal business. This way you won’t have to be constantly looking over your shoulder or knowing exactly how to phrase your order to avoid suspicion. Besides the doctor visit there’s also a fee to enter the herb house. And that is before you even see bumboclaat product, much less make up your mind. So of course, most Jamaican weed smokers will still choose their original weed man where they can get a good amount of quality herbs without all the rigmarole. That’s a definite turn off for a regular ganja smoker. The dispensaries are perfect for tourists and the upper class. And this system just seems to be trying to exclude the majority of Jamaican ganja smokers with fiery hoops to jump through just to hold a bumboclaat medz.

After the dance: An original weed hustler’s box setup. Image contributed by anonymous weed hustler
Heavy marijuana plant on a clear day. Image contributed by Shanece Grant

Considering all of the promises that were made before the first licenses were issued, it is a shame that the grandfathers of ganja farming in Jamaica are getting locked up and priced out of the new cannabis market. Nothing is wrong with the wealthy wanting to get a slice of the ganja pie. But it seems like they want a monopoly and not a level playing field. At the rate that we’re going, we soon won’t be able to buy a bills bag from a corner shop anymore. And considering the dispensary prices, how accessible will ganja be for us in the future? It looks like weed can only be legal if it can be taxed to bumboclaat.

Seven acres of marijuana being burned in St. Elizabeth in early April 2019. Image from Loop News
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2 COMMENTS

  1. Couldn’t be said better. Capitalism at its best once again. ‘Food box right of the poor people’s mouths’ Keep it up!! Great highlight of whats really going on!!

  2. That will always be the issue though. The second something becomes legal, the rich people will get preferential treatment so they can get richer. It’s a shame that the people who have been farming and selling weed aren’t the ones being asked to lead the charge and that’s ridiculous.

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