The Barbados government says it is encouraged by the discussions held with Canadian firms interested in establishing a presence on the island as Bridgetown seeks to take advantage of a growing global medical marijuana industry.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley, said she met with individuals and company officials in Toronto and Montreal recently where the issue of medical marijuana was the main topic.
Canada has fully decriminalised cannabis use, leading to a mushrooming of pharmaceutical industries tied to the herb.
She told reporters that there was “great, great interest” in the establishment of a medical marijuana industry in Barbados and that Attorney General Dale Marshall and the Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir are currently reviewing a regulatory framework.
“Many of the companies, coming out of Canada, need an opportunity to be able to ensure that if they domicile in Barbados, [they can operate] their business enterprise for the rest of the world without any difficulties.”
She said medical marijuana in Barbados was “one that is likely to garner significant business,” but cautioned that changes would have to be made to various pieces of legislation to allow for the establishment of that industry here.
“Even to ensure that Barbadian farm workers are not prejudiced in any way… we need to make sure that our workers are not exposed in anyway on the farm workers programme with respect to the wages which they receive as well. So there are issues that we have to work through and hence the face-to-face meetings in Toronto.”
During her budget presentation last month, Mottley announced plans to establish a medicinal cannabis industry project implementation unit tasked with establishing the administrative framework for the timely implementation of the project.
She told legislator the Unit will be headed by a director, who will be responsible for championing the programme and ensuring that an expansive educational and sensitisation campaign is implemented.
She said that one of the tasks of the unit will be to facilitate the establishment of a Medicinal Cannabis Authority and Board, which will be responsible for regulating the medicinal cannabis industry, through the formulation and implementation of appropriate policies, procedures and guidelines, as well as for the conduct of inspections.
Mottley said that the Canadian companies were lining up to take advantage of the medical cannabis industry here as a result of a number of factors including that fact that some of them wanted to domicile in Barbados.
“Secondly, some of them want to participate with Barbadians in Barbados to be able to be part of the medical cannabis sector and we made it very clear that yes, we welcome people, but we are also going to ensure that we create opportunities for Barbadians to invest in this new sector as well,” she said, insisting that the development of the cannabis industry locally should be based on research and development and continuous training of participants, while avoiding past mistakes with other industries.
“Separate from research and development, we need to see ourselves as a domicile for persons engaged in this activity because of the global commerce and it ties into what many Canadian enterprises want to do in terms of structuring out of their businesses to engage the rest of the world. This is a natural extension of what we have been doing in the international business sector.
“Thirdly, we don’t want to ever make the same mistake that was made with other agriculture products, particularly sugar in the past. That you treat to it as a bulk commodity, that if we are going to have a medical cannabis industry it needs to be a vertically integrated industry as well. Therefore, we are being very strategic about how we relate to this sector,” Prime Minister Mottley said.