Last updated: 04:00 PM ET, Wed September 07 2016

Jamaica Tourism Officials High On Cannabis-Themed Travel

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | September 07, 2016

Jamaica Tourism Officials High On Cannabis-Themed Travel

PHOTO: Jamaica is developing a framework to support “cannabis-infused health and wellness travel,” said Edmund Bartlett, tourism minister. (Photo by Brian Major).

Nearly two years after Jamaica enacted legislation to ease penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana, government tourism officials are forging the first official links to the surging weed tourism marketplace.

“Cannabis-infused tourism” has a place in Jamaica’s product mix, alongside all-inclusive resorts and mass tourism said Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister in an address at the CanEx Jamaica conference held earlier this month at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.

In a report on the government-run Jamaica Information Service website, Bartlett said the government is “looking at” the corridor from Negril in Westmoreland parish to Black River in St. Elizabeth parish in southwestern Jamaica for the establishment of “a health and wellness center” designed to accommodate cannabis-seeking travelers.

READ MORE: High Time For Jamaica's Marijuana Tourism About Face

“I believe this will provide a very useful geographic space for us to consider a new destination in Jamaica and a destination that will be characterized by health and wellness spas and cannabis products,” said Bartlett.

Jamaica’s tourism ministry has also established a “health and wellness network” that Bartlett said is responsible for creating “the framework within which cannabis-infused health and wellness” will proceed in the country. The network will attempt to “ascertain how the country can benefit more from the industry, while building more unique experiences,” and will formulate an official policy by 2017, Bartlett said.

Amsterdam and Colorado are examples of cities that benefitted from marijuana-themed tourism, Bartlett added. “We can do a level of product diversification which would enable us to be attractive to all demographics,” he said. “What we have seen is that cannabis-infused experiences have added much to health and wellness.”

Jamaica’s move to host a marijuana-themed conference with a government tourism official as a featured speaker is an indication of the marijuana-themed travel segment’s explosive growth and its prospects as a high-performing travel segment for Caribbean destinations.

Despite popular misconceptions, marijuana was illegal in Jamaica until the 2014 legislation that decriminalized small amounts of the drug. Moreover, while it maintains a reputation as a laid-back, good-time place, Jamaica is largely conservative country where many do not appreciate the ganja culture.

Still marijuana has long been widely available in Jamaica, including in areas frequented by tourists. Travelers can find “ganja tours” in the Nine Mile district and areas around Negril.

In a Jamaica Observer report, Bartlett estimated the global marijuana tourism market at $494 billion. With health and wellness tourism identified by Bartlett as an area of focus under the ministry’s plan to expand to five million annual visitors, expect the country to continue to cultivate its cannabis connections.

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