Wednesday 23 October, 2019

Medical marijuana bill to be debated in Parliament

Attorney General, Dale Marshall has announced the Medicinal Cannabis Bill will be laid in Parliament on Tuesday and debated at the end of the month.

He told members of the Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers (BARJAM) on Sunday, although it may seem to some as if Barbados is lagging behind other Caribbean countries in the medical marijuana industry, he said the country is operating at its own pace.

“I don’t think that we are coming to the dining table too late. I would rather we got it right than to hurry and get it wrong. We have to function within what works for Barbados.”

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Just last month, St. Vincent and the Grenadines began issuing licenses to local and international businesses for cultivation of commercial medical cannabis. In 2018 Antigua and Barbuda introduced to Parliament the Cannabis Bill 2018 aimed at regulating the production, prescribing, and supply of medical cannabis for patients and permitting Rastafarians to possess, cultivate, and supply cannabis. Over in St. Kitts and Nevis, on July 31 the National Assembly voted to decriminalize the use of small amounts of cannabis for private and religious use, replacing some criminal penalties with fines and community service.

The AG said, for the most part, there seems to be widespread support for the use of medical marijuana in Barbados. 

“We have committed to medicinal cannabis because, as a fella said- ‘you gotta go where the science takes you’, but there is always going to be some push back. I don’t think that the churches are against medicinal cannabis. Some of them have said that if it is for health and well being then [that is] fine. The single treaty on narcotics, which is the 1969 United Nations Convention, exempts what would normally be illegal drugs, including cocaine and so on, so long as the purpose is either medical or scientific.”

The AG explained the issue government is now grappling with is how to address arguments from those who wished to use cannabis for recreational purposes.

“Our big issues is always going to be the feeling that if you can use marijuana for medicine then you could also use it for recreation and I think that is what the religious community is concerned about. We have made it clear, that under our international obligations we can do medicinal or scientific but not recreational.”

Marshall said meetings have been convened with members of the Rastafarian community who put forward arguments in favour of marijuana for sacramental purposes, however the AG pointed out such provisions are not covered under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

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