Barbados’ cannabis authority has today announced a new partnership with cannabis technology company GrowerIQ, which will see it manage the tracking and reporting of all production on the island.
The tie-up is intended to ‘establish cutting-edge standards’ not only for the island’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry, but also for the wider region.
It marks the latest initiative by the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BMCLA) to create a thriving, inclusive and unique medical cannabis industry, benefiting both patients and local entrepreneurs.
A spokesperson from the BMCLA told Business of Cannabis: “The BMCLA intends to continue to craft policies and guidelines that should create an environment that allows the industry to create targeted high-quality medicinal cannabis products made with a distinctive Bajan flavour with excellent value-added and that can stand on the international market as a reflection of a creative vision of, and high value for, Barbados.”
Cannabis in Barbados
Barbados, like its neighbouring Caribbean islands, has a long history with cannabis, and, as such, it has always been in high demand.
This history has led to particularly strict rules around cannabis possession and cultivation. Until recently, anyone charged with possession for personal use could be fined up to US$112,000 or face up to five years in prison, while those found in possession of more than 15g could be charged with ‘trafficking’ and face up to a life sentence.
However, since 2019, the island nation has taken bold steps to liberalise its laws and welcome the opportunities a regulated cannabis industry can create for both local patients and its economy.
In 2019, the Barbadian government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Mia Mottley, passed the Medical Cannabis Industry Act, with regulations following suit in 2020.
The BMCLA explained that, in an effort to ensure ‘the roll-out was as inclusive as possible’, the Joint Select Committee sought presentations from the public on their expectations for the medical cannabis industry.
“A Cannabis Unit, under the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, was also set up in 2019 to facilitate what that roll-out of the medicinal cannabis industry would look like, with a team who would research and interview best practices from across the globe inclusive of our regional partners like Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines which had already opened their cannabis industries.
“Once that groundwork was done and the legislation was passed after much consultation, the BMCLA opened its doors to the public on January 18, 2021.”
In December 2020, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, which had significantly impacted the island’s economy, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir said: “The industry must get started… (The economic benefits are) something that we cannot turn a blind eye to. We have to leverage our position now.”
In September 2020, a referendum was held, which saw the possession of up to 14g of cannabis decriminalised, seeing those caught fined $200 via a ‘fixed penalty notice’, similar to a traffic ticket.
Vision for the future
With just less than two years under its belt, the BMCLA has now approved nine licensees, with a combined 18 licences.
Barbados’ licence structure has eight separate categories with varying tiers, covering everything from microgrowers, to importers, exporters, laboratories and retail distributors.
The latter allows licence holders to establish a ‘therapeutic facility’, somewhere you can go and receive your prescription of medicinal cannabis from a pharmacist and consume it at that location under the care and attention of medical professionals.
“This allows for a spa-like/medical tourism growth where you can have that facility housed on a beach, or in the beautiful countryside of Barbados where you can also enjoy the atmosphere,” the regulatory body explained.
Furthermore, licences are granted for a five-year period, all with inclusive costs, ensuring that a licensee can ‘not only start up their business but also have the opportunity to see growth without the concern of annual renewal fees’.
With the groundwork laid to enable businesses on the island to flourish, the BMCLA’s new partnership marks the beginning of the next phase, seeing the body focus on ensuring quality products and ‘transparency to ensure regulatory compliance while safeguarding the well-being of patients’.
Traceability is imperative
GrowerIQ is a cannabis technology company that provides cannabis management systems to facilities around the world, now tracking cannabis production in over 14 countries.
According to the BMCLA, ‘traceability is imperative’, achieving its goal of providing ‘safe, high-quality reliable products’ to patients.
It explained: “We all know that there is no 100% in track and trace, but this is a strong tool in the fight against divergence. It is our responsibility to have a secure supply chain that protects public health… and ensures our licensees comply with the regulations.
“A traceability system will also assist our licensee with market growth and standardisation, especially in a brand-new industry.”
GrowerIQ’s CEO Andrew Wilson echoed this sentiment, arguing that not only does a well-implemented tracking system ensure patient safety and the ‘legal integrity’ of the burgeoning market, but also it establishes trust in the industry.
He told Business of Cannabis: “I’d also say that tracking cannabis production fosters trust and confidence in the industry as a whole.
“When there is transparency about where and how cannabis products are produced, it becomes easier for consumers to make informed decisions. It also helps dispel misconceptions about cannabis, contributing to the overall perception and understanding of the industry.
“All these factors combined create an environment where the cannabis industry can grow and flourish in a way that is responsible, transparent, and beneficial to all stakeholders.”