BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The newly established Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority should be ready to begin issuing licences next month, Agriculture Minister Indar Weir has said.

But Weir has hinted at the possibility of Barbadians having to be prepared to make “heavy investments in order to get going” into the new industry under which the Government will allow the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Weir told the online publication, Barbados TODAY, while he is “happy to report that the authority is established, and they are ready to work”, he is hoping that the first licence would be ready to be issued before February but no later than the end of that month.

“By February all of the necessary information should be in the public domain, so that the public will be aware of the process and what they have to do in order to be able to start to apply for licences,” he said, even as he declined to disclose the cost of the various categories of licences.

The agriculture minister said that while Barbadians will not be left out of the new industry, they must be prepared to make heavy investment in order to get going.

“Barbados’ marijuana sector is not small business activity only, it calls for huge investment in research and development,” he said, noting that he was not prepared to comment on whether or not the “average” Barbadian could afford to obtain a licence.

“Frankly, I don’t know what the average man means; the average man cannot invest in Coca-Cola,” he said, insisting that the focus now should be on what is needed to get the industry off the ground.

“It takes a huge investment in manufacturing and even takes a huge investment in cultivation. We have to be frank about these things and face the reality where this industry is going because if you have done any research on the industry, you would realise that it takes major investment to make it work.

“There is always a place for the small man which would be facilitated by Government who would create space for them and opportunities for funding. These are things that we are working on for the small man,” Weir told the online publication.

Barbados will adopt a tiered approach to cultivation and processor permits, ranging from Tier 1 for small-scale cultivation to Tier 3 for large-scale farms. The Medical Cannabis Industry Act allows medical cannabis to be prescribed by a practitioner to Barbadians or visitors to the island.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley had told legislators that if managed correctly, the trade could prove to be extremely lucrative.

“If we can in structuring out the medicinal cannabis industry as a new productive sector, manage the agricultural component, manage the manufacturing component, manage the tourism and hospitality component and manage the international business component then we will have in a total way be able to extract maximum value from this particular product which for the majority of our history was in fact legal and not illegal,” she told legislators.

Barbados is the latest Caribbean Community country to get involved in the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes.

Last month, the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament gave the green light for people to be in possession of 30 ounces of marijuana while lawmakers are yet to debate the legislation regarding the establishment of the appropriate authority to manage the sector.

Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamaica have all passed legislation allowing for investments in the marijuana industry.