Members of the Rastafarian community are crying shame on the Mia Mottley administration and the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BMCLA) for sidelining them in the buildout of the burgeoning industry.
In fact, outspoken activist Paul Ras Simba Rock is accusing the Government agency of playing hypocrite, as he renewed his call for “reparatory cannabis justice”.
However, the BMCLA’s Acting Chief Executive Officer Senator Shanika Roberts-Odle has defended the authority, insisting that it has included members of the Rastafarian community “at almost every stage of our development”.
Rock’s criticism came on the heels of the BMCLA celebrating a week of activities to mark its second anniversary.
“The BMCLA should be ashamed of itself, and this current week of cannabis industry activities would be better used to tell the people of Barbados why they are still being held under this old colonial racist cannabis law and how long they will have to endure it.
“It appears the process for cannabis reform that the BMCLA has undertaken once again puts the majority of people of Barbados way at the back of the line while pushing a minority forward,” Rock argued.
He added that for the past two years, members of the Rastafarian community have vented their frustration with the Government and the BMCLA about how the medicinal cannabis industry was being built out.
However, in her statement on Friday, Senator Roberts-Odle was adamant that members of the Rastafarian community were consulted “before we became the Authority”.
“There was a forum in which several members of the Rastafarian community would have given their input on the then draft regulations, suggested changes and accommodations of which some of those recommendations were taken into account,” she said.
“Additionally, some members of the Rastafarian community were in fact included when we developed the TVET [Technical and Vocational Education and Training] course for which those members were compensated for their work. On our Board, the body that governs the BMCLA, we have a member of the Rastafarian community who aptly provides input to the guidance and the direction of the BMCLA and the industry,” the CEO further pointed out, although noting that there are varying Rastafarian communities which have their own opinions, thoughts and feelings.
“We recognise that as with everything we cannot please everyone, but we are open to continued productive engagement and we will continue to ensure that there are opportunities for individuals to be involved in the industry.”
Rock had also expressed disappointment that Rastafarians continued to be restricted by law in their use of marijuana.
He accused the Government of seeking to use the medicinal marijuana industry as a “cash cow for a small percentage of the population while the masses are left to pay fines or face law courts for possession and/or cultivation of any amount of cannabis”.
Senator Roberts-Odle insisted, however, that the BMCLA only regulates the medicinal cannabis industry and could not speak to sacramental or recreational use of the drug.
She also stressed that most of the individuals who have applied for cannabis licences and have been approved are Barbadians, some of whom have no additional investors.
“Almost 70 per cent of the applicants are Barbadians…. The individuals who work for the BMCLA are Barbadians, and hence we want what is best for Barbados and Barbadians,” the CEO said.
In his statement, Rock also highlighted the “hypocrisy [of the BMCLA] in hosting courses in cannabis cultivation for the purpose of progressing that industry’s workforce, when if any persons taking the course were to personally plant cannabis, they would be arrested”.
He said despite the BMCLA acknowledging that the Rastafari community and others use cannabis for “medicinal and traditional purposes”, it had ignored this fact and only saw fit to formulate an industry that does not benefit or compensate the people who have paid a heavy price over the years to keep the traditional medicinal and cultural use of cannabis alive.
“In the initial conversations about the possibility of Barbados having a medicinal cannabis industry, the Rastafari community publicly noted that if cannabis justice was not given to the people of Barbados prior to the commencement of such an industry, what would ensue would be nothing short of ‘cannabis colonisation’ and a repeat of plantation sugar slavery,” said Rock. (MM)