A senior partner in the law firm responsible for helping to develop the medicinal cannabis industry in parts of the Caribbean has raised concern that Barbados is dragging its feet on setting up the industry here.
Managing Partner with Dentons law firm Dustin Delany told Barbados TODAY the time for talk was over and that Barbados should start taking serious action if it wants to cash in on the growing industry.
Delany said: “My first piece of advice is that we need to stop talking about it and put our legislation in place.
“What has happened as we have seen in other jurisdictions… if we keep talking and don’t put this into action we are going to miss the parade.”
The Medicinal Cannabis Industry Act was passed in the Senate at the end of November last year.
The law created the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority which has been formally established but Government is yet to confirm a Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Board and a Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Appeals Tribunal.
At the end of May, Dr Shantal Munro-Knight, the head of the cannabis unit in the Ministry of Agriculture which is to become the licensing authority, made an appeal for business plans by would-be growers, handlers and traders.
Delany acknowledged that while the country’s medical cannabis industry could be faced with several flaws as a result of expediting its implementation, it now faces losing investor interest with its delays.
“I am not saying that Barbados will necessarily have those problems because I think Barbados brings a different dynamic to what our medicinal and even recreational cannabis industry could look like,” said Delany.
“I think the Government is right on track that we could be a legitimate research and development jurisdiction and it plays into the Government’s wider long-term plans of creating a medical hub here. Also on the side of medical tourism, I think we can play a big role there.”
He said while there were hopes of Barbados becoming an exporter of cannabis-based products, that could be “a bigger challenge than people realize”.
Delany explained: “I think a lot of people here have these grand visions of our cane fields turning into acres of cannabis, and that is just not how medicinal cannabis works. It is on a much smaller scale than that.
“We will have, I am sure, some production here, but in terms of exporting for example, shelf ready product, that is a lot of money and a lot of effort.”
Delany said that based on some of his discussions with officials here, one focus was to ensure small farmers have an opportunity to be involved in the industry.
But he said the associated costs could prove prohibitive.
He suggested that one way to get traditional farmers involved was for a portion of licence fees to be placed in a fund that they could then access either interest free or at a very low interest rate.
Delany told Barbados TODAY: “It was a big concern in putting together the Jamaica legislation. It was a focal point for the St Vincent government putting in their legislation as well, to make sure that the traditional farmer was not left out.
“We have the same concerns here but at the end of the day sometimes the concern can be a monetary one. That being when you are a licensed cannabis grower there are certain security requirements that need to be put in place.
“If you go to Jamaica, for example, you see some of the facilities there – there are 12-foot fences [and] razor wire security – it is all legal requirements that have to be put in place. So how does the traditional farmer or the little man have access to those farms. There are different ways of doing it and I know there has been some thorough discussions here in Barbados as to how to get that done.”
Barbados TODAY has learned that in addition to security costs that licence fees in some jurisdictions could range from as low as $100,000 to as high as $1 million depending on the type of licence.
Bridgetown is adopting a tiered approach to cultivation and processor permits, ranging from tier 1 for small-scale cultivation to tier 3 for large-scale farms.
It is also offering various types of licences including research and development, laboratory, processor, retail and distribution, import, export and transport.
The authorities are yet to detail the process for obtaining a licence and the associated costs.