Barbados Attorney General Dale Marshall has pledged to introduce a medicinal cannabis bill in parliament tomorrow and he expects it to be debated later this month.
Marshall told a press conference that the Barbadian government is committed to rolling out a medical marijuana industry. The main challenge is to appease critics that claim it could lead to recreational cannabis legalization, which mighty prove problematic for the country’s diplomatic relations with the USA.
Marshall, who is also the deputy leader of Barbados, claimed that the Caribbean nation’s powerful religious leaders are not against medicinal cannabis. “Our big issue 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,” he said.
Yet Marshall was keen to stress to the assembled members of the Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers that the government has no intention of permitting recreational marijuana use. He said Barbados is well aware of its obligations under the 1969 United Nations Convention, but pointed out that it exempts what normally be considered illegal narcotics if they are used for medical or scientific purposes.
Many Caribbean banks have corresponding American banks and they will not accept money from any industry that is illegal under U.S. federal law. That includes cannabis, and Caribbean countries have therefore been reluctant to legalize marijuana, despite its importance to the Rastafarian culture.
Yet the tide is starting to turn. Jamaica has begun exporting legal cannabis to markets like Canada, while it continues to lobby the U.S. government to relax banking laws.
Last month, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines issued its first cultivation licences after bringing in external experts from Trinidad & Tobago during a consultation process. Many major Canadian firms are establishing operations in the Caribbean and it could soon emerge as a hotspot in the global marijuana trade.
Marshall insisted he is not worried by Barbados lagging behind fellow Caribbean countries when it comes to producing medicinal cannabis, arguing that it is important to get the framework correct before taking the plunge.
His bill will be debated in parliament on August 30.