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The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security’s Cannabis Unit is urging local farmers to find opportunities in the upcoming Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Industry, expected to open shortly.

Speaking to over 100 farmers who attended the Ministry of Agriculture – Cannabis Unit’s virtual Farmers Forum last Friday, head of the Unit, Dr. Shantal Munro-Knight, said she was aware of the fears that there would not be a level playing field in the medicinal cannabis industry for small farmers.

However, she suggested that while investment into the industry would be capital heavy, small farmers and entrepreneurs have the opportunity to carve out their niche by working together as groups as the industry opens up and expands.

“We shouldn’t think as soon as day one, we are going to have the capacity to participate in the regime at the same level. There will be a period of learning. There will be a period where you will have to gather investment, and see what the best ways are and learn the lessons. Therefore, we must give ourselves time. It doesn’t mean that because one or two big investors come, that the whole industry will become monopolized. It’s a growth spectrum. The industry will expand, and it will contract, and we will have to be able to look for the opportunities to be able to participate. Even if you start to participate as a worker, it doesn’t mean that you have to end up there,” she stated.

Encouraging the audience to examine “the full value chain”, Dr. Munro-Knight said that apart from cultivators and persons working on extraction, the cannabis industry would require lawyers, consultants, service providers, marketing and advertising specialists, drivers and security personnel.

“We will need a whole spectrum of people to be involved in the industry. There is a license category for transportation…there is nothing that prevents two or three small businesspersons getting together and saying, ‘let’s invest in transport vehicles that we will outfit to transport cannabis’. So, I hope that we are not being fatalistic about this industry. Let’s look at the opportunities that might be available, if not from day one, certainly as the industry grows and expands,” she urged.

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The Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Act, 2019 will allow for eight categories of licenses once it has been proclaimed. These eight licenses include: Cultivator; Processor; Retail Distribution; Import; Export; Transportation; Laboratory; and Research & Development

Of the eight license categories both the Cultivator and Processor Licenses allows for tiers. The Cultivator License tiers are: Tier 1: under one acre; Tier 2: between one and five acres; Tier 3: between five and 25 acres; and Tier 4: more than 25 acres.

The Processor License tiers are: Tier 1: under 200 square meters; Tier 2: between 200–500 square meters; and Tier 3: more than 500 square meters.

In anticipation of assisting small farmers and entrepreneurs, the Cannabis Unit has also been collaborating with the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council of Barbados, to facilitate training and certification to develop industry standards for cannabis cultivation.

Additionally, the Cannabis Unit has been looking to facilitate certifying the workforce via prior learning assessment methodology where the workforce can be certified on the job, based on internal training to raise the skill level in the industry and provide opportunities to legitimatize local expertise.

“We want to make sure that people who come with some knowledge are able to get a level of certification that can allow them to operate in the industry in a legitimate way and we are hoping that we cannot only have that as a national qualification but also as a Caribbean qualification so that people can also be able to use that qualification to move and work right across the industry in the region. We have already started work with TVET for the development of two standards in cultivation of medical grade cannabis . . . so we are in that process of development of those standards,” Dr. Munro-Knight said.

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She added that one of the other things that the Unit was doing in terms of training, was to facilitate through strategic partnerships, opportunities to provide training in areas that people are either not aware of, or areas that are technical and specific to cannabis that may be important to the industry, to provide that level of expert training and ongoing certification.

However, the head of the Unit wanted to make it clear that access to medicinal cannabis will only be permitted under the terms and conditions set out by the laws of the country and the policies and regulations of the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority once it is up and running.

“After the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Industry Act is proclaimed, Regulations must be laid in Parliament and go through what is called 40 days of negative resolution, which allows for debate of those Regulations – and that will determine when the industry is open. But we will be working as much as possible, so that once the Regulations are passed, and the BMCLA has been established and the Bill is proclaimed and becomes law that we can move swiftly to issue licenses. … We are doing the background work now so that when the doors are open, we are ready to go,” she explained.

Ministry of Agriculture’s Cannabis Unit

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