Despite assurances from Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir that the medical cannabis industry will not be like the sugarcane sector, one group says it is not convinced.
In fact, President of the Afrikan Heritage Foundation Paul Simba Rock said he had no doubt that the burgeoning sector would be operated like “the old sugar plantocracy”.
“Members of the Rastafari community, including myself, are of the opinion that we have been slighted in the whole rollout of the Barbados medical cannabis industry. We are also of the opinion that the stench of colonialism and slavery surrounds this new Barbados medical cannabis industry and thus it is being paralleled to the old sugar plantation,” said Rock.
Pointing to the recent townhall meeting during which Weir gave the assurance that the medical cannabis industry “will not be a repeat of the sugarcane industry” and that “nothing will be shipped out in bulk for anybody to refine and send back to us”, Rock insisted that perhaps Weir was simply fooling himself.
“The fact that Minister Weir and his party could conceive of using a plant that they themselves deemed illegal for any type of use five years ago, for profitable gain, while keeping the plant itself illegal for use in its natural form by all Barbadians, stinks of colonialism and sugar plantocracy,” said Rock.
“Minister Weir and his party refuse for some reason to acknowledge the traditional medicinal use of cannabis. In reality, this means I can go and purchase cannabis oil or maybe even packaged teas, while it remains illegal for me to have a couple cannabis plants in my yard so I can make my own tea.
“The sugar plantation as recorded in our history books, ignored basic humanity and morality. The fact that the Rastafari community has been the advocates for the medical use of the cannabis plant from in the late 1920’s, has defied those who said it did not, continued to use the plant, and made it available for others at the risk of their freedom and very lives, and now not given any special consideration within the framework of their medical cannabis industry, can be seen in no other light than as immoral and lacking of basic human decency,” Rock added.
He suggested that Government spend more time having public forums on the matter while creating “sustainable cannabis markets” in the region and in Africa.
“Bajan cannabis should be producing Bajan cannabis pharmaceuticals to be marketed in the region and the African continent. These are ready markets that can generate massive streams of income for this little island,” he said.
Rock, who is the leader of the recently launched civil society group Cannabis Barbados, said it would also help for Government to facilitate smoking and vaping facilities to accommodate medical cannabis treatment.
“The traditional and customary applications of smoking and vaping for preventative medicinal purposes by Barbadians should not be kept illegal,” he said.
Rock noted there still seemed to be a misunderstanding within Government of the differences between “medical, sacramental and recreational use”.
“The fact that the Government has promised to hold a referendum on the recreational use of cannabis, seems to be their ‘trump card’ in not addressing the plant’s other uses.
“It is a fact, that should the Minister of Agriculture and his party acknowledge the right for Barbadians to have access to all plants for their medicinal properties, including cannabis, a referendum for recreational use would not be needed,” he added.
Rock is currently challenging Government on a clause in the Sacramental Cannabis Act, which was passed into law at the end of November last year, based on what was considered a place of worship claiming that it does not take into account the historical practices of the Rastafari community.
The court case is scheduled for February 3, 2021. Rock is maintaining that the Act does not identify Rastafari homes as their place of worship. (MM)