A new campaign group, opposed to the eventual legalisation of marijuana use, was launched on Monday, issuing a sharp warning to patients to source medical cannabis drugs through legal channels.
Pharmacist Paul Gibson, a member of the Coalition For a Safe, Healthy and Productive Barbados, declared there were already several individuals engaging in “suitcase trade” in medical cannabis and urged the Ministry of Health to police cannabis-based drugs entering the island.
He was speaking at a media conference at the Co-operators General Insurance on Monday, where the Barbados Road Safety Association (BRSA) officially introduced the coalition along with its annual campaign against drink driving.
Gibson, a former president of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society, said he was gravely concerned that individuals were sneaking items into the country without knowing if the contents were legit.
He said: “We are suggesting that we, through the Ministry of Health, continue to manage the gate of entry. I want to warn Barbadians of something – everybody is starting to bring in these oils illegally or illicitly, through different ports of entry, suitcase trade, post offices and so on.”
The pharmacist was unable to say exactly how widespread was the alleged suitcase trade in products containing Cannabidiol, the marijuana-derived substance sought for its medicinal properties. But he said he was “mindful that this is something that is happening a lot and we have to be very careful of it because you are not sure what you are getting”.
Just last month, while announcing that five medical cannabis products were to be added to the national drug formulary, Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic revealed that some food stores and health shops were already selling items containing cannabis extract.
Besides a hefty fine, Gibson warned today that there were other consequences associated with using medical cannabis products that were not prescribed by a medical doctor here and that were not purchased through the correct channels.
He said: “How do you know that the content in those brown bottles are what they say they are? You have absolutely no way of knowing that somebody went on a high-quality computer, printed a label, stuck it on a bottle and sent it here to you. We really don’t know.
“We are also warning persons, do not engage in the use of cannabinoids that are being sold across the country. There is a fine of $250,000 for it. It is not authorized and you are not sure what you are getting. You really could be getting anything in those bottles. Because it is popular people want to jump onboard [but] we are urging people to be very careful.
“There is also the issue of being poisoned. You don’t know what is in some of these things. This is a grave concern.”
Through the coalition that was officially introduced, the BRSA is advocating its opposition to legalisation of marijuana for recreational use in Barbados.
The Labour Party administration has already promised that while laws would be changed to accommodate the implementation of a medical cannabis industry, a referendum would be taken to determine if the country should go the route of legalizing a certain amount of the weed for recreational or sacramental use.
President of the BRSA, Sharmane Roland-Bowen, a vocal critic of marijuana use, said she believed the medical cannabis introduction was “a strategy” to “soften the attitude of persons before they go about implementing recreational marijuana use”.
As such, she said the coalition was established to educate Barbadians on the use of the drug, adding that no facts would be held back.
“It is therefore in the interest of the public that any decision, either for or against, be carefully considered with all the information on the dangers associated with this form of use of this drug,” she said.
The alliance is made up of the BRSA, and representatives from among private Public Service Vehicle (PSV) owners, the pharmaceutical society and the Church.