Government’s promised rollout of medical marijuana legislation is long overdue, says Democratic Labour Party (DLP) President Verla DePeiza. In fact, the newly re-elected leader of the party, which formed the previous Government, says the conversation on this matter is more than 40 years too late.
DePeiza believes discussions should be long past medical cannabis and onto legalisation for religious and recreational purposes.
However, as The Medical Cannabis Bill 2019 was taken to Parliament, DePeiza expressed concern about some “confusion” in the bill, which leaves some uncertainty about who will be allowed to dispense the drug.
While DePeiza’s position on medical marijuana is more clear-cut than that of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP), the two share common ground on the belief that consultation with healthcare professional should take place.
The DLP president told Barbados TODAY, legalisation of medicinal marijuana should have occurred as early as the 1970’s. She however cautioned Government to tread carefully as it attempted to dispense its most recent piece of legislation on the matter.
“The words pharmacy and dispensary both appear in the legislation. The word ‘pharmacy’ is defined in the Pharmacy Act, and requires a licence, a professional designation and all of that. But what is a dispensary, especially since the Pharmacy Act also has something separate called a dispensary?” she asked.
According to DePeiza, any “confusion” on such important parts of the legislation could have dangerous consequences.
“We don’t want to have any confusion with terms and we want to be clear. Are we saying that people who do not have any medical knowledge or designation can also be distributing medical marijuana?
“We need to be really clear what we are intending to do. If at this stage we are only talking about its medicinal purposes, then it needs to be managed by the medical profession. If we are speaking about commercial enterprise, then that is another story,” explained DePeiza.
The party leader also expressed concern about the lack of consultation with medical professionals, a concern shared by Opposition Leader, Bishop Joseph Atherley who on the previous day said Government had left key stakeholders “distressed”.
“I personally have consulted with members of the pharmaceutical community and they are distressed and disturbed. Their role has not been explained to them nor their opinions taken on board. I am definitely supporting it in principle, but the principled position would be to have informed consent in relation to the legislation,” DePeiza said.
On Thursday in response to opposition concerns about the historic bill, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir said the legislation would make provisions for the setup of regulatory bodies, which would inform the public and stakeholders of their roles.
In response, Depeiza asked: “Isn’t that working backwards?”
“You should have consultation and then born out of the consultation should be the legislation. I am satisfied that it needs to be an agenda item, but if you don’t have the buy-in and if we don’t even understand what you’re trying to do with it, because you have mixed and muddled terms, then those are things that need to be clear before you rush it through Parliament,” DePeiza said.
The DLP leader also declared the time had come for Government to pursue a “larger conversation” on marijuana use.
“In relation to religious rights and personal use, I don’t think our discussions have gone far enough. Those should be on the table for discussion. I don’t know how much of that larger conversation Barbados is actually ready for,” she admitted.
“But the fact of the matter is that whenever you try to legislate morality, you run into problems.
“You start by criminalising an entire generation and that impacts productivity. It would have to be examined along with issues like use while operating machinery, in particular vehicles and at work and things of that nature, but we are ripe for discussion and I don’t think we need to delay it much longer,” said DePeiza.