Potential investors eager to take a bite out of the budding medical cannabis industry are one step closer to doing so in Barbados.
In fact, Attorney General Dale Marshall announced on Sunday that the way has now been paved for the industry to be developed here with the new law to be debated later this month, and a new authority to be established in a matter of weeks to start issuing licences.
Though he did not give details of the planned authority, Marshall insisted that Barbados was not late in entering the growing industry since it was best to get it “right” than to hurry and get it wrong.
“I don’t think we are coming to the dining table too late,” Marshall told journalists at the annual general meeting of the Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers (BARJAM) held at the Argentine Embassy.
“I think we are getting where we need to be. So by the 30th we will have the authority up and we will be able to start issuing licences to people who bring in applications,” Marshall announced.
Acknowledging that other countries have allowed sacramental use of cannabis, the Attorney General also disclosed that lawmakers here were meeting with relevant stakeholders to make that determination.
“We have had meetings with members of the Rastafarian community to discuss exactly that, but the problem with sacramental use is it doesn’t fall within the exemptions of the treaty,” he said.
“Our big issue is always going to be the feeling that if you can use marijuana for medicine you could also use it for recreation,” he added.
Marshall explained that Barbados was a signatory to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which allows for the use of “what would normally be illegal drugs” to be used either for medical or scientific purposes, and therefore recreational use was off the table unless done through a referendum.
Shortly after coming to office at the end of May 2018, the Barbados Labour Pary Government announced that it would be establishing a medical cannabis industry here. And two months ago authorities announced the addition of five marijuana-based drugs to be added to the local drug formulary, a first step towards achieving this.
However, Government has reiterated that when it comes to legalization of the weed for recreational use, there would be a referendum.
Insisting that the medical cannabis industry had “some potential” for Barbados and Government was committed to developing it, Marshall said the Medical Cannabis Bill would be laid in Parliament this week and debated later this month.
The Attorney General said he was not concerned about Barbados’ timing in getting involved in the industry, pointing out that while other regional economies have already gone ahead with implementation plans, Barbados’ approach would be different and it was more about “going where the science takes us”.
“We are not afraid for Barbados to be an innovator once more. Anybody who was born before 1965 will know that Barbados used to be the place in the world that developed the best strain of sugar cane. There is no reason we can’t apply those exact sciences in trying to develop strains of marijuana that do exactly what you need to do,” said Marshall.
So far, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis and the U.S Virgin Islands have either announced plans or have introduced laws to govern the cultivation of a cannabis industry.
Marshall said Barbados would be placing heavy emphasis on “specialized and computerized farms using greenhouses” when producing the cannabis plant for medical purposes.
“There are some people who will want to do it the traditional way and more power to them. The problem with doing it in the greenhouses is going to be the cost of the investment because greenhouses will take a lot of electricity. Hopefully we will be able to attract local and foreign investment for the greenhouses,” said Marshall. [email protected]