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Hoteliers appear disinterested in marijuana travel trade

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2015 | 4:00 AM

Internationally, some properties have been positioning to take advantage of travellers seeking out marijuana for medicinal and other purposes, following legalisation of the herb in some sections of the United States.

Bud and Breakfast has launched the first web-based booking engine to match travellers with safe and legal accommodations in places that have legalised cannabis. As outlined at budandbreakfast.com, this currently includes Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, as well as countries like Jamaica, The Netherlands and Uruguay.

However, no Jamaican properties are currently listed on its website.

Approached for comment, the Ministry of Tourism said last Thursday that it was unable to comment on how legalisation of marijuana in Jamaica would affect the local travel trade as the law is yet to be finalised.

"We are waiting for the Ministry of Justice to finalise some aspects of the law," the tourism ministry said.

Legislation has been passed to make possession of up to two ounces (56.6 grams) of marijuana a petty offence that would not result in a criminal record.

Legal uses

Cultivation of five or fewer plants on any premises would be permitted, and the law also provides for a licensing authority to be set up to deal with regulations on cultivation and distribution of marijuana for medical, scientific and therapeutic purposes.

Rastafarians can also legally use marijuana for religious purposes, and tourists with prescribed medical marijuana can apply for permits, at a cost, authorising them to legally buy small amounts of the plant.

Locally industry members are already weighing in on whether or not Jamaica should be promoted as a Bud and Breakfast destination.

Dimitris Kosvogiannis, general manager of Melia Jamaica Braco Village, said Thursday that marketing the destination as a place to light up might affect its reputation as a luxury destination.

"Unlike other legal 'drugs' like alcohol or tobacco, marijuana, has traditionally been linked, when consumed for recreational purposes, to a more bohemic, hippy, relaxed and carefree lifestyle," said Kosvogiannis. "Without intending to pass judgment on one's outlook on life, there is an inherent 'slackness' that comes with marijuana users. As such, from a business perspective, I do not support, endorse, nor will Melia allow, marijuana smoking on its premises," he said.

Though Kosvogiannis said, broadly speaking, Jamaica would not benefit from twinning marijuana and tourism, he said small, hostel-type establishments with 15 rooms or fewer may be able to attract clientele from that market segment.

International websites indicate that the herb is sold for much lower prices in Jamaica than in other cities worldwide.

The website grasscity.com states that: "For US$10, you can already go home with lots of buds. Half pound of weed will usually cost US$80 in Mandeville. Comparatively, the herb retails for US$220 per ounce in the United Kingdom, and US$250 per ounce in Melbourne Australia."

The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association did not respond to a request for comment.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com