Government’s medical marijuana policy is not sitting well with the head of the island ’s biggest agriculture organisation who believes that farming will suffer.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), James Paul, has suggested to Barbados TODAY that the money invested in the medical marijuana industry could instead be used for agricultural development.
During her March 20 Budget speech on Wednesday night, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced a policy framework for medicinal cannabis, to be rolled out by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Prime Minister also declared that the framework includes “stringent regulatory and traceability guidelines to guarantee the quality, safety and efficiency of the products being used and consumed for medical use”.
The policy is intended to ensure that consumers of medical marijuana and byproducts are protected by regulating the importation, distribution, possession, purchasing, manufacturing, cultivation and personal consumption of medical cannabis.
But the BAS chief executive argued that traditional crop production was in dire need of help.
Paul told Barbados TODAY: “In the same way we can find resources to try to develop the marijuana sector, there are issues within our traditional crop sector and traditional agricultural sector that need addressing and need resources and we also need to find the financial resources. We must also rank in importance.
“You might want to put a hold on that [marijuana use] and take the money and maybe invest it, in trying to see how we can encourage the consumption of locally produced food items that have greater nutritional benefits to Barbadians.”
Paul contended that Barbados has already lost any competitive advantage for ganja, given major developments in the cannabis industry in North America.
Neighbours St Vincent & the Grenadines became the first Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) member state to decriminalise the drug.
Paul added: “So many countries are light years ahead of us in terms of marijuana production and there is no products that we have produced in the region that we have been able to maintain a competitive advantage over producers in the more developed countries.
Even in terms of sugar, other countries have gone ahead of us, it might be wishful thinking that we can gain a competitive advantage in marijuana.”
The agriculturalist went on to call for marijuana research funds to be invested to support farming instead.
“Medicinal marijuana might be something that is better imported, rather than saying we can produce it here at a price that is competitive to overseas.
“The resources that we have would be better spent trying to support farmers in the areas that they have strengths and certainly in the production of healthy nutritional food for Barbadians, that is the area that the local farming community does have strength,” the BAS chief said.