Government is being urged to ensure Barbadians are included in its medicinal cannabis industry.
Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) spokesperson on health Courie Cox has appealed to Government to give nationals a discounted licence fee as well as financial support to allow them to take part fully in the fast-growing industry.
Chief executive officer of the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BMCLA) Dr Shantal Munro-Knight has revealed that 15 applications had been received thus far.
But, Cox said it was telling that only one Barbadian was among those initial applications.
He declared that Government could not allow foreigners to be the main beneficiaries of the industry.
He pointed out that the medicinal cannabis industry was worth approximately $26.8 billion (US$13.4 billion) in 2018 with its value expected to grow to nearly $100 billion (US$50 billion) by 2024.
In a press statement, Cox said: “The chief executive officer (CEO) of the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BCLA), Dr Shantal Munro-Knight, revealed that of the 15 applications received thus far, one person was a local with the others representing foreign investors unable to be on the ground in Barbados may be due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“As Barbados embarks on such a lucrative enterprise, I am making a call to the relevant authorities to ensure that the ownership and major players in this game do not take on the look of previous leading industries in Barbados; most notably sugar and tourism. The sugar cane industry has largely been owned by a specific economic class with the average Barbadian relegated to the lower-waged positions.
“With all the lessons learned from the control and influence of these two foreign exchange earning industries, it is essential that we not allow another major economic pipeline to fall into the hands of non-nationals.”
Cox said Government had to do everything in its power to prevent a similar occurrence.
“The Government must do more to encourage and facilitate the participation of locals into the production of medical marijuana at the highest levels of ownership,” Cox’s statement continued. “The high price for a licence is prohibitive. Is this deliberate? If it is not, then this party is calling for the lowering of the licence fee for locals and the establishment of a credit facility through Fund Access where financing can be disbursed with an interest-free repayment plan.”
Cox also voiced his concern about Government’s continued hard stance on persons found with illegal drugs.
He called on Government to follow through on its previous promise to be more lenient with accused persons.
“The Government announced last year its intention to cease charging persons in possession of small amounts of cannabis. A $200 ticketed penalty was to be introduced. To this day the revision has not occurred.
“Just a few days ago four young men were stopped by the police and the punishment meted out ranged from community service for one offender to $1,200 to $3,500 for the other three guilty persons. The highest value of the cannabis found on each of the men was a mere $30. The penalization should stop altogether,” Cox said.
“The country has to stop making criminals out of our citizens when they can be better served in society by creating means for them to realistically play a role in the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Industry and our country’s economic advancement.” (RB)