With Barbados on the verge of launching a legitimate marijuana industry, prominent former politician and community activist Hamilton Lashley is calling for the policy to favour Rastafarians and small farmers.
Following Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s announcement on Friday that a legal framework to legitimize medical cannabis was taking shape and could be in force by Christmas, Lashley said the Rastafarian community, as well those that have long touted the medicinal value of cannabis, are in danger of being cut out of a potential financial windfall by wealthy landowners.
“I support the Prime Minister’s move 100 per cent. However. if certain measures are not put in place, the big beneficiaries are the persons with large acreages and who could plant the quantities for export. There is a view that only a certain sector will benefit, which I believe to be true, because poor Barbadians do not have the necessary land,” said Lashley, a former Minister of Social Transformation.
He argued that prospective investors are now “licking their chops” at the financial possibilities that come with a marijuana industry.
But he noted that before the international community moved towards a cannabis industry, many had fully supported the mass incarceration of users and growers.
He contended that since it was Rastafarians and “poor black people that suffered the brunt of persecution and prosecution because of their belief in the drug”, it is only fair that their share of a medical marijuana industry is carved out first.
“Barbados should follow the precedent set by Jamaica on how the industry is allocated. If this does not happen then the rich in Barbados are going to jump and sing hallelujah because another gateway has been opened up for them to get richer. It can’t be that as we are seeking to add a new brand to medicinal marijuana to the international sector, that only the rich benefit. It would be unfair for many of these hypocrites to profit while Rastas and poor people were suffering under the law for decades,” said Lashley, the former Member of Parliament for St Michael South East – a riding frequently targeted by police as a hotbed of illegal drug activity.
In an article published on their website over the weekend, a Rastafarian rights advocate, the African
Heritage Foundation, called for clarity on how the Government intends to ensure equitable distribution, as Barbados prepares to enter into a budding pharmaceutical industry.
The article continued: “It seems while they cross all their t’s and dot all their i’s with medical practitioners, the business community is being put on stand by. It is obvious that someone has to supply this upcoming medical cannabis industry with cannabis. The question is, who are the suppliers going to be? Will a framework be put in place to ensure that the people and communities who have suffered the most under the prohibition of cannabis benefit from this new industry?”
Mottley revealed that before Christmas, Barbados should have a framework for medical cannabis in place while legally freeing up the recreational use of the drug will have to be decided by referendum.
“There is no doubt that we will put a framework in place for medical cannabis within the next week or so. In fact, we have more or less taken a decision, we just need some refining and training with practitioners,” Mottley told business leaders gathered at the CIBC FirstCaribbean Barbados Client Economic Forum.
Pointing out that Barbados would not be going about introducing medical marijuana carelessly, Mottley said careful research would first have to be carried out.
“Barbados cannot do that without anybody else doing it in the region,” Mottley said adding that Barbados would have to be strategic and develop the country as a global leader in the research along with other global leaders in cannabis including Jamaica.