Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir is making it clear that the burgeoning medical cannabis industry will not mirror the now dying sugar cane sector.
He gave the assurance on Wednesday night during a townhall meeting at Queen’s College, in Husbands, St James on the medicinal cannabis industry. The session was organized by the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BMCLA) in association with the Ministry of Agriculture.
Insisting that local “small farmers” will have an opportunity to enter the industry, Weir said he was aware not everyone would be able to begin at the same time.
On the other hand, he said he believed Barbados would attract several major investors from its key tourism source markets given the island’s reputation for safety, political stability, hospitality and an ability to “deliver”.
“It is a phenomenal thing and something we cannot turn a blind eye to. Therefore we have to capitalise on any opportunity that confronts us now because later on they may not be here and there may be too many other options,” he told the meeting.
He promised that the industry was being developed in a way that there would be a complete local value chain.
“Barbados, I want to assure you that this is not a case of the sugar industry,” he declared.
“Nothing will be shipped out in bulk for anybody to refine and send back to us. All that will be done here and a finished product will be sent. We have made that abundantly clear. So this cannot be a repeat of the sugar industry,” he said.
“Any conversation that seeks to suggest that this is a repeat of the sugar industry I am here to tell you unfortunately, you are wrong. That is not the case,” the minister insisted.
Stating that the industry will get started in January, Weir suggested that residents should expect tweaks as kinks pop up over time.
Advocate for marijuana use in Barbados Paul Simba Rock, who declared he was one who believed the medicinal cannabis industry would mirror the sugar industry, explained that it was not due to export of the product but based on where black people will be “positioned” in the industry.
“This is what I am talking about, being put back on a plantation,” he said as he made reference to investor BigMike’s video in which he stated that a part of his plan for one plantation he visited was to hire locals to carry out some functions.
Rock, who demanded to be heard during the townhall meeting, declared: “We have not been included . . . We have been left out.”
He queries where the seeds would come from to “develop this local strain” that officials indicated they wanted to develop.
He also raised questions about who would be employed based on the qualifications needed.
“Only an informed people can make informed decisions,” he said, suggesting that people who have been involved in the industry “illegally” were the experts and their services should be utilised.
However, the agriculture minister gave the assurance that a referendum was still to come to legalise marijuana use, pointing out that provisions were already in place for sacramental use.
“We have agreed that we are going to threat the rastas fairly, but we are moving in stages,” he added.
Weir also noted that provisions would be made for individuals with marijuana to come forward with their strain of the drug.
“You are not going to be arrested. You are not going to be treated as a criminal. In order for us to get local strains we have to get it from local growth. Therefore we have recognised long ago that there is a place for the rastas in Barbados to participate,” he said, while promising to make time for more meetings to iron out any concerns.
During the meeting, residents were given insight into the various sections of the regulation governing the medicinal cannabis industry and the associated policies.
They were informed that training and certification of individuals who wish to work in the industry would be made available.
It is expected that the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council will roll out a Cannabis Cultivation programme levels I and II early next year, to satisfy the training needs in the first instance.
Officials have promised that the courses will be relevant for the Barbados market, while noting that other programmes were expected to be introduced at a later date.
Various standards for the industry have been created by local and international professionals, who are expected to publicise those standards and procedures in coming weeks.
The board of the BMCLA is responsible for licencing, policy direction and governance of the authority. It will also approve applications for licences in the industry.
During the townhall meeting, residents insisted that empowerment of locals was necessary even as the country welcomed international investors. Additionally, they suggested that the local “legacy farmers” of marijuana who would bring forward strains of the drug should be “appropriately compensated”. ([email protected])