By, Sandy Deane, Barbados Today
Government’s regulator of the medicinal cannabis industry has appealed for business plans by would-be growers, handlers and traders, its director has declared.
Dr Shantal Munro-Knight, who heads the cannabis unit in the Ministry of Agriculture, said there was already interest in cannabis exports from Barbados.
Her call comes in anticipation of the ministry’s unit being launched as the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BMCLA).
The BMCLA is by law the sole regulator of the medicinal cannabis industry. It licenses the cultivation, processing, transport and dispensing of medicinal cannabis to patients.
It has not been announced when the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Board (BMCLA) is to be appointed to oversee the authority, the sole regulator of the medicinal cannabis industry.
The BMCLA has been formally constituted, now four months after Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir announced the agency should be ready to begin issuing licences by February.
Back then, he told Barbados TODAY: “I am happy to report that the authority is established, and they are ready to work.
“I am hoping that the first of the licence would be ready to be issued before February but no later than the end of that month.
“By February all of the necessary information should be in the public domain, so that the public will be aware of the process and what they have to do in order to be able to start to apply for licences.”
Dr Munro-Knight told more than 100 participants in a virtual farmers’ forum on cannabis last Friday that while investment in the industry will be capital heavy, small farmers and entrepreneurs can carve out an opportunity through joint ventures as the industry expands.
As an example, Dr Munro-Knight said through a licence from the authority for transporting cannabis, “there is nothing that prevents two or three small businesspersons getting together and say, let’s invest in transport vehicles that we will outfit to transport cannabis”.
She added: “We shouldn’t think as soon as day one, we are going to have the capacity to participate in the regime at the same level. There will be a period of learning, there will be a period where we will have to gather investment, put the coppers together, see what the best ways are and learn the lessons. Therefore, we must give ourselves time.
“It doesn’t mean that because a big investor or two come that the whole industry will become monopolized. It’s a growth spectrum. The industry will expand, and it will contract, and we will have to be able to look for the opportunities to be able to participate. Even if you start to participate as a worker it doesn’t mean that you have to end up there.”
But she told the farmers that each business would be responsible for doing its own market research and “make sure that it can reach the necessary standards in order to penetrate that regional and international markets”.
She said: “The Cannabis Unit has already looked at markets and the respective requirements and we will be sharing information in relation to the necessary standards and requirements. But we cannot commit to any guarantees for you. As a business you will have to compete not only with other businesses in Barbados but across the region as well in relation to getting your product into the market.”
She continued: “We must look at the full value chain. The industry isn’t just going to need cultivators who grow, it’s not just going to need people working extraction – the industry will need lawyers, consultants, service providers, people who are doing marketing and advertising, we will need drivers, security. We will need a whole spectrum of people to be involved in the industry.
“So, I hope that we are not being fatalistic about this industry. Let’s look at the opportunities that might be available if not from day one, certainly as the industry grows and expands.”
Barbados is to adopt a tiered approach to cultivation and processor permits, ranging from Tier 1 for small-scale cultivation to Tier 3 for large-scale farms. The Medical Cannabis Industry Act allows medical cannabis to be prescribed by a practitioner to Barbadians or visitors.
Photo: Dr Shantal Munro-Knight