Plan for Rasta group

The Rastafarian community is being included in the Ministry of Agriculture’s plans to use the medicinal cannabis industry as a means of economic enfranchisement for Barbadians.

Minister of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Security Indar Weir said on Wednesday that “in very short time, we will be coming to Cabinet with a model that should work in terms of economic enfranchisement”.

The move was welcomed by Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Kirk Humphrey, who was “sure we all appreciate that Rastas in Barbados have suffered tremendous persecution and prosecution in pursuit of what they considered at the time to be their sacrament”.

Weir told the Appropriation Bill, 2024 debate in the House of Assembly that “we had about four meetings with the Rastas and we took from them what it is exactly they would like to see in this model”.

“Most of them, if not all, had suggested that the Government finance the entire operation on their behalf and they have cited things about being punished in the past etc.,” he said.

“And so, when I combine all the information that I received from the discourse I had with them, we came up with a plan to establish a sort of a value chain operation that allows for them to do cultivation, allowed for processing to take place, allow for spa arrangements as well and allow for a cooperative to be established.”

He explained that the intention was that “if the Government participates, then the participation, based on the numbers we looked at, would give us an opportunity to put the Government in that space for about two years to three years at most and by then transition out similar to how we did the sugar industry and allow for them to continue the operation”.

The St Philip South representative observed the “numbers are looking good [but] what we currently face now is market space and that is what we are working on”.

“We had some conversations with an investor from St Vincent and the Grenadines and we are looking now to see how we can create this enfranchisement model that brings them [Rastafarians] in where they are comfortable because that is the most important part of all of this as well,” Weir said.

He said the plan “is not going to go forward without them [Rastafarians] coming back to us and taking a presentation on what we are doing for us to get their feedback before we go public with it”.

“And the reason why I’m approaching it this way is because coming off the conversation that I have had with them, there are some critical things that . . . I personally don’t see how we can ignore them and I will want to make sure that we get it right when we roll out,” the minister stated.

Humphrey highlighted the need for such assistance, reminding “how difficult it was even to walk through this country as Rasta” in the 1970s and 1980s.

“As we have put in place affirmative action programmes, . . . I do believe we have to put in place every single thing that we can to make sure that they can benefit from whatever benefits are returned to this country and to the people of this country in relation to cannabis,” the St. Michael South representative said.

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