By Roland Sebestyén
It is hoped that the growing cannabis industry will help to give a much-needed boost to the economies of some Caribbean islands. While Barbados has opened its doors to medical cannabis businesses, MPs in Bermuda are set to debate legislation around adult-use cannabis.
Over a year since the island’s parliament legalised medical cannabis use through the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill in November 2019, Barbados has finally allowed businesses to start working with the plant in January.
The move could help to bring in much-needed revenue as the country’s tourism industry continues to be battered by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The tourism has traditionally been one of the largest contributors to Barbados’s economy, however, many tourists are now staying away due to travel restrictions.
According to the South Florida Caribbean News, the economy is estimated to have contracted by about 18 per cent in 2020. Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that the Covid-pandemic would continue to have a massive impact on the economy.
When discussing the medical cannabis market in December, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir said: “The industry must get started. People will be allowed to enter, (but) not everybody is going to be able to start at the same time.
“[The economic benefits are] 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.
“There will be too many other options. We have to leverage our position now.”
Cannabis has a long history in Barbados, and the demand for medical (and recreational) cannabis has been increasing for years now. While recreational use is strictly forbidden in the country, a bill has allowed the spiritual use of the drug for registered Rastafarians.
With the medical cannabis market being open for businesses, it is hoped that the country’s location between the US/Canada and Europe will help drive up the sales, thus the economy can climb back to its pre-Covid level.
Bermuda MPs Set to Debate Adult-Use Cannabis
Bernews quotes Bermuda premier David Burt saying in this week’s press briefings that a debate on cannabis legislation will be held in the parliament today (February 19, 2021).
When submitting her proposal, Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons said, “This Bill will usher in lawful regulation of all such activities involved—directly or ancillary—to the cultivation, import, export, production, sale, supply, use or transport of cannabis or medicinal cannabis or products derived from cannabis or medicinal cannabis in Bermuda.
“Provisions in the Bill will permit lawful activities relating to the cannabis plant, medicinal cannabis, cannabis products and cannabis-infused food products.
“It also grants monitoring, inspection and enforcement powers to the regulator: The Cannabis Licensing Authority.
“The lawful activities associated with cannabis will also include personal adult-use and consumption of lawfully obtained cannabis plant material, medicinal cannabis, cannabis products and cannabis-infused food products for persons 21 years of age or older.
“It is expected that lawful access to cannabis will reduce the illicit trade in cannabis and the associated harms.
“The presented Bill is the culmination of a comprehensive social justice reform project to liberalise our cannabis laws in line with global contemporary thought, scientific evidence and overwhelming public support.”
Regardless of what happens, Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory, is following an ongoing pattern seen in cannabis legalisation around the world. Some hope that such moves may influence further reforms in the UK and the rest of the world.