Barbados is lining itself up as the next country to declare cannabis legal.
Officials on the Caribbean island have tabled a motion with the Attorney General to propose legislation that will allow the medical use of cannabis. A debate on the subject has been set for August 30.
It is, according to local political analysts, a giant step towards legalising recreational use for its 300,000-stong population.
Dale Marshall, the island nation’s Attorney General told the local press earlier this week that the draft bill was now agreed and was ready for debate later this month. He added that legislation would allow Barbados to catch up with neighbouring islands which have already eased cannabis laws.
“I don’t think that we are coming to the dining table too late,” he explained.
“I would rather we got it right than to hurry and get it wrong – we have to function within what works for Barbados.”
The island’s government has already made repeated efforts to decriminalise marijuana for personal use, and has made it clear numerous times that they wish to establish a cannabis industry that would welcome recreational use.
However, the island’s staunch Christian community – which has always carried a significant amount of political weight – has repeatedly rebuked any efforts. But, as global attitudes shift it is understood the animosity from the church towards cannabis has cooled.
“I don’t think that the churches are against medicinal cannabis,” Mr Marshall added.
“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.
“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.”
Political analyst Baker Powell thinks the move to bring about the legalisation for medical use is a huge leap towards the well-supported goal of legalising recreational marijuana – or ‘ganja’, as it is locally known.
“The government want to see ganja legalised, a majority of the people want it legalised, but the stumbling block has always been how the church view it,” he told The Leaf Desk.
“One of the problems the church has had is the way in which many people in the Caribbean regard the smoking of cannabis as a religious experience in its own right – and that has been an issue for them for many, many years.
“But the will of the people, science, and the popularising of decriminalisation throughout the world right now is beginning to break some of that stigma down.
“The crazy thing is that you will encounter it everywhere on the island whether it’s legal or not – the smell of ganja is not far away at any point.”
Over the last 12 months, the rise of cannabis legislation discussion has permeated several islands. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines began issuing commercial cultivation licences earlier this year, while the government of Trinidad and Tobago is expected to deliver a decriminalisation bill next month. St Kitts and Nevis too are to propose decriminalising cannabis for personal use later this year.