Rastafarians in Jamaica such as rasta priest Ras Moya will soon be smoke cannabis legally
Rastafarians in Jamaica such as rasta priest Ras Moya will soon be able to smoke cannabis legally Getty

In what may come as a surprise to those whose knowledge of Jamaica is gleaned from Bob Marley albums and TV shows about Rastas, smoking cannabis is a criminal offence in the Caribbean country.

But not for much longer, after the government of the island announced plans to decriminalise marijuana and put an end to a ban stretching back 100 years.

It could be the most obvious law change to make since the United States lifted a ban on alcohol in 1933.

Indeed, it has been steps taken in some US states to decriminalise cannabis which has paved the way for the policy on the island, said Jamaica's justice minister.

As a result, the threat of sanctions by the United States over the issue has retreated, meaning Rastafarians will soon be able to light up some 'sacred herb' without fearing the police coming through the door.

Jamaica is very much the spiritual home of marijuana in popular culture.

Jamaican rasta culture has permeated popular culture across the world, from Bob Marley and the Wailers to clichéd souvenirs which blend the cannabis leaf with the country's flag colours, to questionable effect.

So news of marijuana's decriminalisation has been welcomed by legalisation campaigners, predictably enough.

Drug Policy Alliance spokesman Ethan Nadelmann told PA it was a "significant step forward." He said: "[It's] both noteworthy in that Jamaica is reforming policies on possession, religious use and medical use at more or less the same time, and politically important in providing leadership in the Caribbean."