More than one year after the passage of Barbados’ Medicinal Cannabis Industry Act, the Caribbean island nation’s industry has officially launched.
Barbados cannabis regulators kicked off the application process last week, and the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BMCLA) announced that it has received 15 draft applications, and one full application. The applications are so far for cultivation, transport, retail, research and development, import, and export, but none have yet been submitted for a laboratory or a processor license.
Shantal Munro-Knight, chief executive officer of the BMCLA, held a series of news conferences last week to provide updates on the state of medical cannabis in Barbados.
One such update pertained to small farmers, who, as Cannabis Wire has reported, were concerned they would be left behind as the medical cannabis industry got off the ground. Those fears, expressed during a Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security’s Cannabis Unit hearing last May, ranged from worries over licensing fees to compliance with strict quality control regulations.
Munro-Knight said that smaller-scale cannabis cultivators “did not need to have land and other things in place,” in order to apply for licensure, and they could be part of Barbados’ Farmers’ Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED) program, aimed at lifting up farmers through training and reduction of agricultural imports. The FEED program will have five acres available for lease for those who want to participate in the medical cannabis program.
“If people can get together that would mean 10 farmers or 15 farmers working on that five acre lot and being able to be provided with those inputs, free of cost. And, this is being facilitated through the Ministry,” Munro-Knight said, adding that smaller-scale cannabis growers wouldn’t have to pay all licensing fees up front, and could instead pay in three installments.
Another update outlined plans to implement a track-and-trace system by the end of February.
“What this system will allow us to do is to be able to monitor every single input in the industry, and to be able to track it, so that very first import that comes in all the way to through that entire value chain, from cultivator to processor to retail to R&D, laboratory, everybody will be required to enter all of their information into the track-and-trace so that any time we’re able to monitor what is happening within the industry,” Munro-Knight said. “Not only in terms of being able to see when there’s a security issue, but as well to see what are the activities? What’s moving most? What are the most strains that are coming into the industry as well? How is testing going? What is the level quality?”
To build up the medical cannabis industry, Munro-Knight also laid out strategic partnerships, for example, with the Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI) to create standards around testing and labeling. The goal is to also have these standards ready by the end of February. Another BMCLA partner is the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council, which is aiming to create National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) for cannabis cultivation.
Munroe-Knight wants Barbados to be a regional leader in the Caribbean when it comes to cannabis research and development, which is “being examined with the aid” of The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
“Of course, Barbados is small,” Munro-Knight said, referencing the work on medical cannabis that can take place at the university. “We don’t have the land space, as other bigger jurisdictions, so we had to think about what it is that we can offer the world… the intent is to work very closely with the Home Agricultural Station for that to become a centre of excellence for research in medicinal cannabis.”
Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir announced the expected January launch of the industry last month. During a public forum at Queen’s College, according to Barbados’ Government Information Service, Weir said that Barbados has a “good reputation” and potentially, a competitive edge when it comes to medical cannabis.
“It is really, really a phenomenal thing, and it is something that we cannot turn a blind eye to. We have to capitalise on any opportunity that confronts us now because later on it will not be here,” Weir said. “There will be too many other options. We have to leverage our position now.”