Even as the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) battles against an increase in drug abuse by young persons, the organisation is still in full support of a medicinal cannabis industry in Barbados.
The vote of confidence has come from Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson, under whose ministry the NCSA falls.
Speaking this morning during the NCSA’s Strategic Plan Retreat at the Savannah Hotel, Hinkson said a well-governed medicinal cannabis industry would provide benefits to Barbadians.
The Minister was part of a 15-member Joint Select Committee that listened to recommendations from stakeholders and the public on the Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2019.
He said the NCSA also made a presentation to that committee.
“The NCSA supports the initiative of the Government to legalize and create a platform for the issue of licences for the handling of medicinal cannabis under a regulated regime,” Hinkson said.
“As you are well aware, we moved further discussion of this Bill to a Joint Select Committee of Parliament and we have effectively wrapped up our work and had tremendous input from the public…and it will be laid very shortly in Parliament.
“We can’t be left behind on this. This is what a large segment of the public has been calling for for years; elderly people, people with disabilities and we can’t go against that tide. We can’t allow the conservatism and the sometimes fear and uncertainty of venturing into innovative enterprises or initiatives which constrains some Barbadians prevent us moving on in terms of what would be in the best interest of our people,” he added.
At the same time, Hinkson disclosed that illegal drugs and substance abuse were “becoming the norm” in Barbados.
He said what was especially worrisome was the fact that the majority of persons abusing these substances were young people.
The Minister said the NCSA had also seen a jump in the number of females involved in substance abuse.
“Indeed, it is our present reality that young men between the ages of 17 and 30 who ought to be among some of our most productive labour force, form a significant portion of our prison population or have had contact with the criminal justice system as a result of involvement with drugs,” Hinkson said.
“And there is a growing number of women as well involved in illegal substance abuse.”
Hinkson said Government had spearheaded several initiatives to counter this problem including the Speak to Youth Advance programme, the Building Blocks programme and the trust loan facility and other vocational training programmes.
The Minister also lauded the Substance Abuse Foundation along with the Maria Holder and Verdun House trusts for their roles in helping people to overcome addiction.
Hinkson also spoke highly of the NCSA, which he said had managed to achieve several noteworthy goals despite being short-staffed.
This includes the revision of a five-year inter-sectoral National Strategic Plan as well as the completion of outstanding financial audits for the years 2012/2013 to 2018/2019.