Barbados Becomes Latest Caribbean Nation to Introduce Cannabis Bill

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Barbados is expected to become the latest Caribbean island to propose legislation to regulate the use of cannabis for medical purposes. The legislation will be introduced in the Barbadian parliament Tuesday, before being debated on August 30, the attorney general’s office confirmed to Cannabis Wire.

Speaking to members of the Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers (BARJAM) on Sunday at the Argentina Embassy in Christ Church, Barbados, Barbadian attorney general Dale Marshall said that the final draft of the bill was completed over the weekend. And although Barbados is behind a handful of other Caribbean countries that have recently loosened their cannabis laws, the legislation would quickly put the island in step with its neighbors.

“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,” Marshall said

The debate surrounding the legalization—or even decriminalization—of cannabis in Barbados has been contentious. The country’s current government, elected in May 2018, had originally proposed a referendum to legalize small quantities of marijuana for personal use in December, and Prime Minister Mia Mottley said during the reading of the country’s 2019-2020 National Budget this spring that steps would be made toward the establishment of a cannabis industry. However, the step faced strong opposition from leaders of the country’s Christian community, the Barbados Road Safety Association, and even members of the governing party who formed a coalition to pressure the government into rethinking its position.

“I don’t think that the churches are against medicinal cannabis. The single treaty on narcotics, which is the 1969 United Nations Convention, exempts what would normally be illegal drugs, so long as the purpose is either medical or scientific,” Marshall told reporters. 

“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,” Marshall added. 

In the last year, a number of Caribbean countries have started to loosen restrictions on cannabis, or ganja, as it is commonly referred to in the region. Trinidad and Tobago’s government is set to publish its proposed bill on decriminalization in September, while Saint Vincent and the Grenadines began issuing licenses to local and international businesses for the commercial cultivation of cannabis in July. St. Kitts and Nevis has also made strides, as Cannabis Wire recently reported, with the country’s parliament reviewing a proposal to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis for private and religious use, replacing some criminal penalties with fines and community service.

The developments are due in a large part to a report by the Caribbean Community’s Regional Commission on Marijuana (CARICOM), which advised regional governments to “review marijuana’s current status with a view to reclassification” with the end goal of “dismantling of [cannabis] prohibition in its totality.”

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