Minister of Small Business Dwight Sutherland has declared he is vehemently opposed to any policy that would see small farmers left out of the soon-to-be-established medicinal marijuana industry.
In announcing that licences would be available for purchase by early February, Minister of Agriculture Weir suggested the price of those permits to be issued is likely to be well beyond the reach of “average” Barbadians.
But Sutherland has rejected that notion and announced plans to meet with Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir on the issue. The new Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority falls under the farm ministry.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Sutherland – the Minister for cooperatives – said his ministry would be hoping to facilitate the creation of cooperatives for the cultivation of marijuana, allowing small farmers to pool their resources to purchase the high-priced licences and the five-acre plots of land required by law.
President of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), Verla DePeiza criticised Weir’s statement, accusing the Government of turning its back on small farmers and deliberately excluding them from the lucrative endeavour.
But Sutherland told Barbados TODAY: “I disagree because fundamentally that is why you have the cooperative model.”
He disclosed: “We have just started discussions with respect to renewable energy cooperative to give the local and small businesses the reach to become investors in the sector.
“The same thing can be done within the medicinal marijuana industry, so I don’t subscribe to that.
“I believe there is room for the small man and small business and we have a role to play as the Ministry of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce and in a very short space of time, I will be discussing with the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security how we as a ministry can ensure that our locals have their fair share of wealth creation as it relates to the medicinal marijuana industry.”
While it is still currently unclear exactly how expensive the licenses are for the cultivation of medicinal marijuana or how many people have been showing interest, Sutherland declared the cooperative model has been working wonders for small businesses focused on other aspects of farming and believes it can be transferred to the emerging industry.
“Right now we have some people preparing to form a cooperative with the black belly sheep and rabbit farming whereby they are looking at the industry of utilising the leather of the sheep to make shoes and other products.
“I believe the cooperative model would give the small business reach, whether it is medicinal marijuana, renewable energy or any other business.”