Medical cannabis is on the agenda for Parliament and that is how it will remain, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir has assured.
He was responding to a declaration by Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley that Government should halt its attempt to “sneak” key medical marijuana legislation through Parliament on Friday.
Atherley made the assertion after a press conference of the People’s Democratic Party earlier today, calling on Minister Weir, who will bring The Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2019 to Parliament on Friday morning, to suspend debate on the measure.
While explicitly stating he was not expressing a personal opinion, Atherley cited a lack of “wide consultation” with Barbadians and key stakeholders in the
local health and pharmaceutical industry on an area, in which “science is globally divided”.
“All we are saying as a party and I am saying as Opposition Leader, is that Government should defer discussion on this, to provide for wider public scrutiny on the measure. You cannot bring this without having talked to the pharmaceutical society. You can’t bring this without having talked to BAMP [Barbados Association of Medical Professionals]. You cannot bring this without having the Barbadian public which would be interested in contributing to the debate on this to have the opportunity so to do,” Atherley said.
While acknowledging numerous pieces of legislation were justifiably rushed through Parliament, Atherley was at a loss about the “haste” associated with the legalisation surrounding medical cannabis.
“We understood that when there were implications for how we related to the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development], implications for commitments with the EU and even conditions which were imposed under the IMF arrangement under which we now live. But we do not understand the haste attached to this one,” said the Opposition Leader.
“Why should this Bill be sneaked through the Parliament of Barbados? It is coming in through the glare of light but it is coming without public scrutiny, public education, without the benefits of the official medical associations of Barbados having opportunities to peruse it and advise Government. Most ‘Bajans’ don’t even know that this is being debated in Parliament tomorrow. I am imploring Government and I am urging the Minister of Agriculture, in whose name this Bill stands, to defer debate on it in the interest of the wider public, the associations that operate in the health sector.”
However, in a stern rebuke of Atherley’s request, Weir told Barbados TODAY: “The medicinal cannabis legislation is going to Parliament tomorrow.”
He argued that the legislation would actually facilitate the establishment of structures capable of properly educating and engaging the public on the implications of a medical marijuana industry.
“There is going to be a Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority which will roll out a set of public relations campaigns and town hall meetings to take public feedback. Those are designed to educate the public as to what medicinal cannabis is all about and how it’s going to work. It is designed to let all people who have an interest know how they can participate, and the medicinal cannabis authority will guide the public through all discussions with regard to medicinal cannabis, the types of licences available, how they can be applied for and all of those things,” revealed the Agriculture Minister.
“But we have to give it locus standi by passing legislation,” he stressed.
In response to Atherley’s premise that medicinal marijuana was a globally divided scientific topic, Weir argued: “The world is still divided on what is healthy food and what is unhealthy food. What is the point? The world is still divided on soft drinks. The medical profession is still divided on what is a healthy meal. What is his point? I don’t get it and I don’t think that is a reason to put a hold on legislation.”
“Those are not real reasons not to go forward with the legislation because a significant part of the regulation that we had… will be to get the public involved. Parliament is tomorrow and the Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2019 is on the agenda tomorrow,” Weir concluded.