Barbados this week will become the latest country to actively pursue a medical marijuana program.
Dale Marshall, the country’s attorney general, said that a bill will be introduced to the Barbadian parliament on Tuesday. The legislation is expected to be debated later this month.
“We have committed to medicinal cannabis because, as a fella said: ‘You gotta go where the science takes you,’ but there is always going to be some push back,” Marshall said, as quoted by NationNews.
Marshall, who also serves as deputy leader of the country, made the remarks at a gathering of journalists at the Argentina Embassy in the Barbadian capital of Bridgetown. He said he expects the bill to go up for debate in parliament on August 30.
Recreational marijuana is illegal in Barbados, the tiny Caribbean island country that serves as a popular destination for both tourists and offshore banking. Nearly eighty percent of the country’s roughly 280,000 residents are Christian, a potential hurdle for advocates who want to expand marijuana production on the island.
Marshall, however, said he doesn’t anticipate push back from church leaders. “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,” he said at the press conference.
“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.
The announcement of the bill has been in motion for months. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said late last year that she was ready for the island to join scores of other countries—as well as dozens of states and cities in the United States—who have reconsidered both the social cost of marijuana prohibition, and the potential boon from legalization. Zimbabwe, mired in economic turmoil, said last week it would repeal its ban on cannabis cultivation to open the door for hemp to become a new leading crop export.
But as Mottley sees it, Barbados shouldn’t prioritize cannabis as an export, but instead use it to expand the country’s tourism industry.
“Why would we seek to export when we can package and extract maximum value by having clinics as well as recuperative villages for people who want to deal with a certain aspect of pain management?” Mottley said in December.