Government officials are calling on members of the Rastafarian community to share their indigenous knowledge on cannabis with researchers of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
But, at the same time, those members are calling on Government to allow them to develop indigenous products, such as soaps and skin care items from cannabis, and to be given immunity from being prosecuted, and branded as criminals.
These were among the points raised during a Joint Select Committee Meeting on the Medicinal Cannabis Industries Bill 2019 at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Tuesday.
One of the committee members, Senator Dr. Crystal Haynes, told those present that: “With the knowledge that members of your community [Rastafari community] would have, I believe that your input would be very, very useful when everything comes on stream because there would be opportunities to perform research and fine tune different formulations.
“There are three different species, but over 700 different strains, each with different characteristics and different impacts. Your knowledge combined with ours, I don’t see a reason why we can’t work together to find a way to operate in the best interests of the citizens with regards to health care.”
Dr. Haynes added that as a physician, her concerns relate to matters of standardization, predictability, what can be proven, and ultimately making decisions in the best interest of patients.
“There is a lack of standardization, research and predictability, as far as we can see,” she said.
Another member of the committee, Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment, Adrian Forde, also called for knowledge sharing between members of the Rastafarian community and UWI researchers so that the issue could be well articulated and all areas examined.
He said that members of the Rastafarian community had a reservoir of knowledge about marijuana usage, and he would like them to take it and combine it, “so we would have a better understanding”.
President and Founder of the African Heritage Foundation, Paul “Ras Simba” Rock, said the fact that the Bill was under discussion was an admission of what members of the Rastafarian community were saying for decades – “cannabis has medicinal properties, and it belongs in communities and it belongs to us”.
He noted that cannabis cultivators were now being referred to as legacy farmers, who were approached by The UWI through the Barbados Medical Cannabis Incorporated to obtain knowledge and information about the indigenous strains.
But, he said, most of the “legacy farmers” had some form of a conviction relating to cannabis. “They are being considered for the conversation on one level, yet on another level they seem to be excluded from consideration,” Mr. Rock said.
He made a case for those whom he said risked their freedom and in some instances their lives to continue the cannabis culture, to be a part of the industry. “Leaving them out is a terrible, terrible thing,” he cautioned.
Mr. Rock further noted that the indigenous uses of cannabis should also be added to the Bill to allow those in the community to have the opportunity to use the entire plant in the same way that orange, turmeric and garlic were used.
He also told the meeting that such opportunities could lead to the possibility of community development and empowerment through medicinal wellness by-products that could be made, such as soaps and skin care items.
“Cannabis is a part of 60 per cent of all medicines that are made, even home remedies. The pharmaceutical industry helped to outlaw the plant so they could develop their products,” he charged.
The founder said there was miseducation about the plant for a “very long time”, and cited a lack of education about cannabis as one of the negative spins in the conversation.