Foreign cannabis companies setting up operations in Barbados will be required to ensure locals own at least 30% of the business, the Ministry of Agriculture has revealed.

Barbados Attorney General Dale Marshall introduced the Medical Cannabis Bill 2019 was introduced in the House of Assembly last month in a bid to usher in a legal industry. If adopted, Barbados would follow in the footsteps of Jamaica, St Vincent & the Grenadines, and Antigua & Barbuda is permitting medical cannabis.

Agriculture Minister Indar Weir gave a presentation on the bill at the weekend. He revealed that international companies will have to set up subsidiaries that are 30% owned by Barbadians.

“This is designed to make sure every last Barbadian is given a chance to participate,” he said. “We’re not just singling out one group, but that every group that has an interest will be part of this industry.

Weir promised the Rastafarian community that it would play a key role in the Caribbean nation’s emerging medicinal cannabis sector. He pledged to allocate a minimum of 60 acres to Barbadian Rastafarians, on which they can cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes.

There is a thriving Rastafarian community on the island and marijuana plays an important spiritual role in their religion. Weir said the government has held regular meetings with Rastafarian religious leaders to keep them abreast of developments and ensure they are included in the nascent industry.

The community is pushing for marijuana to be legalized for religious reasons as well as medicinal issues.

Weir promised that the industry would be stringently regulated and that separate licences will be required for cultivation, research and development, distribution, retail, import and export.

It will take some time for the legislative process to be completed and in the meantime the Barbadian government has launched a tender process for international producers to supply it with cannabinoid products.

The scheme is slated to start in April 2020 and run through to March 2022.

Yet the government is at pains to stress that it will not be legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes. It does not want to upset the USA, a key trading partner and global financial hub, as marijuana is illegal at a federal level there.