Kenyon in the News: Decriminalization of Marijuana

As marijuana laws relax in many states, with Colorado and Washington both legalizing recreational use and other states legalizing use of the drug for medical purposes, we can also look south of our borders to, to Jamaica, a country many associate with marijuana. And it looks like at least one Kenyon faculty member has opinions on the issue.

On September 13th, the Minneapolis Start Tribune ran an Associated Press article about the decriminalization of marijuana in Jamaica. The Rastafarian culture, popularized around the world by musicians like Bob Marley, is a religious movement combining Pan-Africanism and Old Testament stories. Marijuana grows well in the Jamaican environment and was first introduced in the 1800s, and has been an important part of Rastafarian culture since the founding of the movement in the 1930s. Decriminalization is being considered in part due to the connection with the religion and it is possible small amounts will be legalized for religious use among Rastas. Other effects of decriminalization would be bringing medical marijuana research facilities to the island and freeing the court system of those caught with only small amounts of the drug.

Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Kenyon, Ennis Edmonds, was quoted in this article commenting on the legalization for religious use. Edmonds’ research focus on Rastafarian culture. He raised concerns that it will be difficult to define “religious use” and many Rastas smoke marijuana in public or in their yards, rather than official places of worship. This lack of formal rituals will make it difficult to determine who is smoking for religious purposes or just for recreation.

What are your thoughts on decriminalization in Jamaica? Sound off in the comments, or I’m sure Professor Edmonds would be happy to discuss the topic with you.

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