Legislation and Decriminalisation


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One of the major hurdles is the contentious issue of legality. It’s the root of funding, investment, industry acceptance and participation.  

One of the Barbados Government’s first steps was to lay the legal framework. The Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Industry Act and the Sacramental Cannabis Act were passed in November 2019, followed by decriminalising measures with the Drug Abuse (Prevention and Control) (Amendment) Act in 2021. Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley also pledged that Barbadians will vote in a future referendum on legalising cannabis.

Opening paragraph of the Drug Abuse (Prevention and Control) (Amendment) Act 2020 (Designed by Esther Jones)
A news clip explaining the amendments to the Drug Abuse (Prevention and Control) Act. (Produced by the Public Affairs Department, Barbados Government)

Lalu Hanuman, an Attorney-at-law from the Synagogue Chambers in Bridgetown, explained the grey area.

“It’s not legal. It’s just that it’s been decriminalised for up to 14 grams on a one-off basis. It is treated like a parking offence but still illegal,” Hanuman said.

News articles proving that cannabis procession and distribution are still illegal in Barbados and will be prosecuted. (Articles from Barbados Today)

The Attorney General of Barbados, Dale Marshall, further clarified the amendment on the floor of the House of Parliament.

“We are not decriminalising the possession of any cannabis. We are not saying that if you are in possession of cannabis, that you are not committing a crime. But we are saying that if you are in possession of less than 14 grams of cannabis, that we will treat you differently,” Marshall asserted. *

The Sacramental Cannabis Act allows the use of cannabis for religious purposes. The applicant obtains a permit from the Attorney General and agrees not to cultivate near a school, sell or use outside of the permitted location.

  • Priest Ras I’an takes care of the Mount Carmel Tabernacle. (Photographed by Esther Jones)
  • Priest Ras I’an takes care of the Mount Carmel Tabernacle. (Photographed by Esther Jones)
  • Priest Ras I’an proudly shows his sacramental cannabis field. (Photographed by Esther Jones)
  • Priest Ras I’an proudly shows his sacramental cannabis field. (Photographed by Esther Jones)

Ras I’an smoothes the bible open on the centre altar in the Mount Carmel Tabernacle, thinking that the Act does not go far enough. 

“How you could have something and can’t sell it when you now make a medical marijuana bill available, whereby you can make economics off of something that you ostracise us for,” said the Rastafarian Priest.

Rastafarian Priest, Ras I’an explains why the Sacramental Bill needs to go further and his need for compensation. (Filmed by Esther Jones)

As Director of International Services and specialist in emerging markets and Fintech at the global legal services firm Dentons Delany Barbados, Robert Simmons understands the role legal framework plays in the medicinal cannabis field.

Director of International Services at Dentons Delany Barbados Robert Simmons explains the confusion arising from the legislation. (ZOOM interview)

“That’s the thing about medicinal cannabis laws; it’s a thin line between legal/legalised and illegal process,” Simmons said.

*Full excerpt from the Attorney General’s presentation on the Drug Abuse (Prevention and Control) (Amendment) Bill 2020.


Report of the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana: Waiting to Exhale – Safeguarding our Future Through Responsible Socio-Legal Policy on Marijuana – CARICOM – 2018

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