Editor's note: Medical marijuana critic William Breathes just returned from a honeymoon in Jamaica. Read his first trip diary entry here, and check out part two below.
The minute you get off the plane in Negril, someone is there to sell you herb.
That includes the porters and baggage handlers at the Montego Bay airport -- specifically a guy who calls himself The Captain. Dude hit me up last time I was down on the island and I went for it, thinking it might not be as easy to score herb down on the beach as people had told me. I was telling myself I wouldn't make that mistake this year when, sure enough, he turned up to load our taxi.
"What'ya name?" he asked me as my future in-laws loaded into the hot passenger van behind us.
"William," he said, sizing me up. "I am da Captain. I 'ave the bes' ganja right 'ere. The AK-47, the sour diesel, the purple stuff. All the best, right here."
"Yeah, man. I remember you from last year. How much?" I asked, knowing full well that I wasn't going to be buying any of the compressed schwag the guy rolled up in a piece of plastic in his pocket unless the price matched the quality.
"Sixty, mon. The best, mon."
"No way. Ten at most, man," I said, knowing I wasn't going to get anything at that price. Predictably, the guy balked at it and moved on to other, more naive tourists fresh off the plane. Don't be one of them: Wait until you get to the beach.
The drive to Negril from Montego Bay takes about an hour and a half, with the road mostly tracing the coastline but occasionally winding its way through small inland towns, with the larger ones marked by colorful single-room shacks, a cold beer joint and a post office. Up until the 1960s, Negril was just a long stretch of beach with a few small towns reliant on sugar cane farming. Jamaica saw plenty of U.S. tourism in places like Montego Bay and Kingston, but Negril was off the radar until hippies discovered the swimming pool-like water and surf at a spot where massive resorts hadn't eaten up beachfront. Their freewheeling, ganja smoking ways helped shape the climate of the area, which, aside from the hotels and resorts that eventually sprung up, hasn't changed much.
We eventually got to our house, and before I could even unload my backpack from my arm, the chef had come out to meet me with a black baggie filled with stalks of ganja buds. On the island, the dealers hardly ever take the time to break buds off of the stalk once dried. They trim their herb wet and by hand, picking the fan leaves out with their fingers and rolling the hash into black gobs that they sell to tourists on the beach. I smoked some last year, and you're better off rolling a bigger spliff than smoking plant matter and skin cells. I had planned to bring down some bubble bags, but with the wedding planning, I got sidetracked and didn't get around to grabbing a set. In the future, I plan on bringing them down and trading them to the farmer with the best herb.
The buds from my chef weren't bad, but the seeds in it were pretty obvious and the farmer must either be growing for sheer volume or is lazy. The bud wasn't densely packed in like the schwag The Captain had tried to sell me at the airport, but it was brown and didn't have any real smell to it. I don't expect to find nicely cured herb on the island, and most of the time it is dried outdoors and only bagged when being sold to tourists like me. Still, I didn't feel like hassling with the beach scene yet and I kicked the guy $60 for roughly an ounce and a half of herb. The chef was pumped on the sale and rolled me a "Bob Marley" to puff on. His eyes got wide as saucers and he mumbled a few Jamaican swear words when I showed him a few pictures from Mile Highs and Lows while he twisted up the hooter -- and all through the rest of my time there, he bugged me to send him seeds from the U.S. Everyone I came into contact in the days that followed seemed to sell ganja. Everyone. Most obvious are the flat-out drug dealers on the beach, who approach pretty much everyone, including my conservative and very shocked mother. They clearly do good business with tourists who aren't used to such an open market for ganja. Sit on the beach for an hour and you can see these guys raking in the dough from Midwesterners pumped to be buying "real Jamaican."
Less obvious are the smaller-time people trying to make an extra buck or two. For example, the colorfully dressed, flip-flopped smiling woman selling fruit juice in the morning offered me some hash with my OJ. Same goes for bracelet salesman, the hotel bellhop, the bartender -- the list goes on. If they don't have it, they can call someone to bring it to you.
On the beach a few days after we arrived, we were joined by a good friend of mine who I'll call Ruben. He's a tall guy white dude with dreads down to his ass and a generally very positive disposition. But after a few days of constantly being hounded as "Hey Rasta," Rasta Ruben was a bit tired of everyone wanting to show off their herb to him.
The two of us were throwing a Frisbee around in the sand with my new cousin-in-laws when Farmer Jim, who was probably in his late 20s and sported long cornrows and a gold watch, introduced himself with the claim that he had "da reeeeeeeeal sour diesel and bubba kush." Tired of being hassled for herb, we told the guy we didn't need any, but he was persistent. He kept returning every fifteen minutes or so, offering us a sample of his "kush"
In Jamaica, you'll hear buzzword strain names tossed around a lot and seldom come across anything matching the description. It turned out, thought, that Farmer Jim did have some good genetics and a cool story, as Ruben learned after we finally gave in to his salesmanship.
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Apparently, one of Farmer Jim's homeys made his way up to Canada in the last few years and has been sending him seeds. He talked about how he grows organically using fruit rinds as compost fertilizer -- and he must have had his farm far enough away from other, less careful farmers, because his herb was some of the best I've seen in Jamaica. Ruben is quite the farmer himself back here in Colorado, and I often have his herb around for my head stash. The two got along swimmingly until Farmer Jim told Ruben it would be $180 for what amounted to roughly an ounce and a half of buds still on the stalk.
The key to getting herb at a good price in Jamaica is to wheel and deal. Don't take the first offer, and don't be offended by an extremely high price on the first go-round. Counter with no more than $60 for an ounce of herb, ever. After a few minutes of haggling, Ruben walked away with a huge black baggie of the "Sour Diesel" for $60 -- though every day afterward when I would run into him, Farmer Jim let us know how good of a deal he had given us and would try convincing us to buy more. His herb was so good that I ended up rationing it down to a joint a day for the rest of my trip.
Look for strain reviews and more pics in part three of my Jamaica Travel Diary.
Our medical marijuana dispensary critic, William Breathes, spent the last two weeks on vacation in Jamaica smoking ganja (and being hassled by U.S. Customs). Look for the final installment of his travel blog as well as his weekly dispensary review in Mile Highs and Lows.