By / October 5, 2023

Barbados on the Cusp of Launching Its Medical Cannabis Industry

Recent developments suggest that Barbados is closer than ever to launching its national medical cannabis industry. In July, the Barbados Cannabis Authority announced a new partnership with tech company GrowerIQ, which will oversee tracking and reporting of all cannabis production on the island.

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Partnership to Establish “Cutting-Edge” Standards in Barbados

This partnership aims to “establish cutting-edge standards” not only for the island’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry but also for the entire region.

A spokesperson from the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BMCLA) told Business of Cannabis, “BMCLA intends to continue crafting policies and guidelines that should foster an environment for the industry to create high-quality targeted medical cannabis products, made with a distinctive Bajan flavor and excellent added value, and which can establish themselves on the international market as a reflection of Barbados’ creative vision and of great value for this country.”

Cannabis in Barbados

Barbados, like its Caribbean neighbors, has a long history with cannabis, which has always been in high demand.

This history led to particularly stringent regulations concerning cannabis possession and cultivation. Until recently, anyone caught with cannabis for personal use could face fines up to $112,000 or risk up to five years in prison, while those found in possession of more than 15 grams could be charged with “trafficking” and face a sentence up to life imprisonment.

However, in 2019, under the leadership of Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the Barbadian government passed the Medical Cannabis Industry Act, with regulations to follow in 2020.

Historical Context and Reforms

The BMCLA explained that, in an effort to ensure “the rollout was as inclusive as possible”, the Joint Select Committee solicited public input on expectations regarding the medical cannabis industry.

A “cannabis unit,” under the Barbados Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition, was also established in 2019 to facilitate the rollout of the medical cannabis industry, with a team tasked to study and scrutinize best practices worldwide, including those from regional partners like Jamaica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, who have already launched their cannabis industries.

“After this foundational work was done and legislation adopted after extensive consultations, the BMCLA opened its doors to the public on January 18, 2021.”

In December 2020, amid the Coronavirus pandemic, which significantly impacted the Barbados economy, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir, said, “The industry must start… (The economic benefits are) something we cannot overlook. We must leverage our position right now.”

In September 2020, a referendum took place in Barbados, which saw the decriminalization of possession up to 14 grams of cannabis, with those caught in the act facing a $200 fine in the form of a “fixed penalty notice,” akin to a traffic ticket.

A Vision for the Future of Cannabis in Barbados

In just under two years, the BMCLA has approved nine license holders, totaling 18 licenses.

The Barbados licensing structure includes eight distinct categories with varying levels, covering everything from micro-growers to importers, exporters, laboratories, and retail distributors.

Evolving Industry and Opportunities in Barbados

This last category allows licensees in Barbados to establish a “therapeutic establishment,” a place where one can obtain a medical cannabis prescription from a pharmacist and consume it onsite under the care and supervision of healthcare professionals.

“This facilitates the development of spa-like medical tourism, where the establishment can be located on a beach or in the beautiful Barbadian countryside, enjoying the ambiance,” the regulatory body elaborated.

Furthermore, licenses are granted for a five-year period, all fees included, allowing licensees “not only to kickstart their business but also to have the potential to expand without worrying about annual renewal fees.”

Laying the groundwork for Barbados businesses to thrive, the new partnership with BMCLA marks the beginning of the next phase, during which the body will focus on ensuring quality products and “transparency to ensure regulatory compliance while safeguarding the well-being of patients.”

(Featured image by Kathryn Maingotv ia Unsplash)

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