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Barbadians in the diaspora have been given the rationale behind the island’s transitioning from sugar cane to medicinal marijuana.

It came last Thursday as Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir, addressed an online Dialogue with the Diaspora, chaired by the island’s Ambassador to the United States of America and the Organization of American States, Noel Lynch, on the Zoom platform.

The event placed the spotlight on the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BMCLA) and the opportunities available for all to participate in the medicinal cannabis industry here.

Minister Weir declared that the industry would be a transition from a dependency on an industry (sugar) that once gave us foreign currency, but no longer could generate the type of foreign currency expected.  

“We must transition to an industry that not only gives a new deal to all Barbadians, but at the same time gives us a chance to leverage our strength internationally and to be able to participate in the global industry that is destined to become the leading industry of the world,” he stressed.

The diaspora heard that the decision to explore this avenue hinged on four fundamental pillars. Firstly, that Barbados intended to be a hub/centre of excellence in research and development (R&D) in medicinal cannabis and anticipated this would provide the country with “a unique opportunity to present a unique cultivar”, giving the best strain known in the world, to position it as “one of the best” in the industry in R&D.

They were also told that the second pillar aimed to ensure Barbados became a centre for training, and Minister Weir noted that this would allow Barbadians to transition into the industry not only as participants but as trainees and trainers through the assistance of the University of the West Indies.

Referring to the next one, the Agriculture Minister said: “The third pillar for us is to produce new opportunities in tourism, where people can now come to Barbados, not just for a short stay, but long stay visitors who are here for rehabilitation, health and wellness reasons. At the same time, where they can come, transfer the cost of coming to Barbados to their insurance company and come to Barbados for recuperation, rehabilitation and treatment in medicinal cannabis, utilising the health and wellness spas that we will create in Barbados.”

The fourth one was said to be the “most fundamental”. The Minister said this was because it aimed to give Barbadians a chance for economic enfranchisement, in an industry presenting a new view for all and giving them a chance to function the way we used to when tourism was booming, and sugar was ‘King’.

He, however, noted that while Barbadians considered it “a good move”, there were still concerns. Pointing out that his Ministry was always seeking to address these in much the same way as it was interacting with members of the diaspora, he acknowledged that one such concern was the belief that some without finance would be unable to participate in the industry.

Dismissing this, Mr. Weir said in the legislation and regulations the Ministry was “at pains to explain that at no point in time would Barbadians be left behind”. 

And, he added that Government was currently working through the Ministry and the BMCLA to make sure this promise of participation by all Barbadians was kept. He also revealed that a synergy with the Farmers’ Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED) would be created. 

“Through the FEED programme, we have decided to add an additional plant, medicinal cannabis, so that people who are trained in the FEED programme, train in understanding business, train to treat agriculture as a business and [we will] train them to be able to transition into making it a way of life. And therefore, medicinal cannabis will also be part of the FEED programme, Minister Weir stated.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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