(Barbados Nation) A major step has been taken towards having a medical marijuana industry in Barbados with the piloting of the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill 2019 in the House of Assembly on Friday.

Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir piloted the much-touted legislation in a comprehensive presentation during the opening session of the House.

Up front, he dismissed fears surrounding the legalising of marijuana by explaining the Bill was not intended to decriminalise cannabis that is used for recreational purposes, but to make way for Barbados to secure a stake in the global medicinal cannabis business that is projected to reach US$100 billion in trade in six years.

The minister said the move to develop a medical marijuana industry represented a paradigm change in the process of wealth accumulation by Barbadians, since the industry provided for nationals to have a major stake in the business.

The Bill would provide for the regulation of the handling of medicinal cannabis in Barbados; the establishment of a Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Board and a Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Appeals Tribunal; as well as the issuing of licences for the handling of the commodity.

The Barbados Government Information Service quoted Weir as saying that the goal was to “position Barbados where [it] can become a global leader for research and development.” He added that it was hoped the island would be able to develop a high quality, unique medicinal cannabis cultivar, giving the island its own geographic indication within the global industry.

Responding to concerns raised about the move, he stated: “The one message I would like to get across to all Barbadians is that this is not decriminalisation or recreation, but it is a Medicinal Cannabis Bill designed to give us a chance to respond to what is taking place globally…. This is an industry that is tipped, in six short years, to grow to USD 100 billion in trade.”

He went on to highlight the difference between medicinal and recreational cannabis, pointing out that the focus was on the cannabidiol ( CBD) extract, and not the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) extract.

“I think the confusion comes when people don’t understand the two. CBD, basically in medicinal cannabis, is used for therapeutic purposes and for palliative care treatments. CBD is not the substance from the plant that gives you a high, it is actually the THC,” he said.

As it relates to direct benefits from a local cannabis industry, Minister Weir noted that these extended beyond healthcare and tourism in the form of rehabilitative services.

He explained that there was great scope for a “new type” of job creation, as persons would be needed in the areas of strain development and provision of security services.

Persons would also be required to develop Information Technology platforms “to trace the plants from the seedling to retail stage” as is mandated by the international narcotics conventions, to which Barbados is a signatory.

There would also be training and certification in various aspects, such as growing, processing and developing strains of medicinal cannabis, which, according to Weir, would be offered by the University of the West Indies, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology and the Technical and Vocational Education Council.

He added that the legislation could also lead to increased foreign direct investment.

The Minister of Agriculture and Food Security also assured Barbadians that they need not fear that they would be left out of the medicinal cannabis industry, stating: “This medicinal cannabis industry would also allow Barbadians, and members of CARICOM countries…30 per cent ownership of any foreign direct investment in this industry. So that even if a foreign investor comes to Barbados to invest in cultivation, processing…provision has to be made for Barbadians to own 30 per cent. So, at no stage…will Barbadians be left out of it.”