Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley today touted the proposed medicinal cannabis industry as a boost to he economy, as a new bill to set it up went before lawmakers.
As the House of Assembly debated the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill, the Minister of Finance said that if managed correctly, the trade could prove to be extremely lucrative.
She told the House: “If we can in structuring out the medicinal cannabis industry as a new productive sector, manage the agricultural component, manage the manufacturing component, manage the tourism and hospitality component and manage the international business component then we will have in a total way be able to extract maximum value from this particular product which for the majority of our history was in fact legal and not illegal.”
The Prime Minister said the creation of the industry is critical owing to its implications for the way Barbados does business with Canada, a key player in both international financial services and medical cannabis.
“Our international business sector is premised primarily with business coming out of Canada in circumstances where there is significant economic activity in both medicinal cannabis and recreational cannabis but in respect to medicinal cannabis in particular that because Canadians have traditionally used Barbados as a domicile for Canadians companies it would be difficult for them to be able to do in circumstances where this would not be permissible here.”
An attorney at law by profession, the Prime Minister explained that there were also implications for Barbadians who worked in Canada on cannabis farms.
Mottley said: “We recognise there are additional issues which may require amendments by the honourable Attorney General to ensure those working in the farm labour programme of Barbadian extract may not find themselves in jeopardy simply because they participating in a farm labour programme that has existed for decades but that they have been assigned to a farm that is involved with the farming of both medicinal and recreational marijuana.
“We need to protect their wages from being considered as the proceeds of crime if they go up there and work in a way that does not impose any obligation on us one way or the other with respect to recreational cannabis.”
The premier reiterated her party’s position on the issue as outlined in Labour’s manifesto.
She said: “With respect to medicinal cannabis we made the point that we felt strongly enough to commit to it because as I said this Government will go as with climate change, where science takes.
“And the science has been absolutely clear with respect to the medicinal properties that cannabis has and what we have seen is research done in Israel, Canada, and other parts of the world to the point where there is clear evidence of its ability to assist persons particularly with neurological disorders and with cancer as a pain inhibitor.”
The Prime Minister cautioned that Barbados cannot allow its history of tobacco and sugar cane cultivation to repeat itself with cannabis.
She declared: “We need also to recognise that the value chain which was robbed of us from modern settlement with respect to tobacco and then with sugar cannot be robbed from us again.
“Especially now that we have the conduct of our own affairs in our hands and I refer specially to the expert of agricultural commodities as a bulk commodity for others to add the value an extract an additional value added that they have placed on it.”