On behalf of the African Heritage Foundation I formally thank the Minister of Agriculture for affording us the opportunity to participate in the recently concluded joint select committee meeting of parliament regarding the proposed Medical Cannabis Bill 2019.
For the record let it be stated that Minister Weir personally made it his duty to inform the African Heritage Foundation of the above mentioned meeting by way of a telephone call to me. In fact, Minister Weir had to call twice as the first call was not answered. The minister in focus in this document and the African Heritage Foundation have been in communications with each other since June 2018. It must be noted that Minister Weir has always been ready and willing to discuss with me/us, issues pertaining to food security and the intended cannabis industry. As such Minister Weir would have been aware that I/we would have an invested interest in the joint committee meeting that pertained to the proposed Medical Cannabis Bill 2019.
It is my understanding that notification of the above mentioned activity was sent to all interested parties and the general public the day before. Our invitation was no different. Added to this Minister Weir asked me if I would like to make a presentation at the joint select committee meeting regarding the proposed Medical Cannabis Bill 2019 and I accepted the invitation. In no way did minister Weir try to force me/us to make a presentation at the meeting. Further to this it is my opinion that persons having an invested interest in the nation’s cannabis movements, should be willing and able to represent their respective positions on the matter at a moment’s notice.
The joint select committee meeting is concluded and Minister Weir continues his open dialogue with me/us. The minister has called to ask for my opinion on the recently concluded proceedings. I said, it was good that the opportunity was given to interested parties to have a public say on the proposed Medical Cannabis Bill 2019. However I am of the opinion that more time should be given to this process as persons with important inputs to these proceedings could not be awarded the time needed to thoroughly make their presentations. Although written submissions of their presentations were invited, the public as far as I am aware will not be privy to these (I stand to be corrected on this point). I also told the minister who constantly tries to reassure me that the plight of the Rastafari community, and the community of those who use cannabis within their daily traditional medicinal practices will be eventually dealt with. That eventually does not work for those of us who remain criminals in this society due to unjust cannabis laws. At the time the minister called to get my thoughts on the recently concluded joint select committee meeting I was engaged in a friendly game of dominoes with some brothers from my community. I told the minister that we were all engaged in the use of cannabis as we played and should the police come around the corner, our call would be abruptly ended as I would then have to take actions that would secure my freedom. As such the “eventually” that the minister speaks of is a hard pill to swallow for many.
My final comment to Minister Weir on the joint select committee meeting was that although it was good to include the public in the cannabis conversations, if their inputs are not reflected in the tweaking of the Medical Cannabis Bill 2019, the exercise would be all for naught and seen as a waste of everyone’s time and energy.
The African Heritage Foundation continues its call to have the traditional indigenous use of cannabis included in the Medical Cannabis Bill 2019. It would be insulting to our heritage and culture if we only acknowledge medicine in the form of pharmaceuticals/drugs.
What is the rush, is the question at hand. One presenter at the final joint select committee meeting asked, what is the expected revenue for Barbados, from the intended medical cannabis industry. No one had an answer for him. He went on to say if it was not going to make Barbados money that it did not make sense. It is the position of the African Heritage Foundation that the rush is needed as sick people are waiting to be assisted by cannabis. The rush is needed to address cannabis in a moral manner as good Barbadian citizens, such as myself are kept criminals due to this unjust cannabis law. However the rush we see the government willing to facilitate is the one to fulfill the needs to the big business interest who are waiting for this bill to pass to commence their cannabis business in full.
Must the needs to the people always be put last?
Paul Rock (Simba)
President and Foundar
African Heritage Foundation