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Barbados Government, Church Leaders Split on Medical Marijuana


One day after Prime Minister Freundel Stuart told church leaders the “nefarious” illegal drug – as well as firearms – trade was “haunting” the country and threatening the very safety and security of the Barbadian family, it emerged today that government was examining the possible use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Senior Medical Officer Dr. Kenneth George revealed at a conference on the availability and rational use of opioids that the Ministry of Health was undertaking research into the use of medical marijuana in palliative care.

Dr. George told the gathering hosted by the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, the ministry was collecting “evidence” for use of the drug as a remedy against pain for patients suffering from chronic diseases and cancer.

“The Ministry of Health is currently gathering the evidence with respect to marijuana use in well-defined clinical situations that will include assisting persons in pain management for cancers and chronic degenerative diseases,” he told the medical practitioners and pharmacists gathered at the Hilton Barbados Resort.

The senior medical official said Barbados has been the primary supplier of opioids to Eastern Caribbean countries, and he argued that the use of such drugs, as well as painkillers, was a pivotal part of the palliative process.

“Although the majority of patients with cancer have pain, proper use of opioids and adjuvant drugs can provide adequate relief in most cases. Opioids are the mainstay of pain control in patients with advanced disease, and they are effective in treating most types of pain,” he explained.

The debate over the emotive issue of marijuana use has intensified here in recent times, particularly after Jamaica last year decriminalized small amounts and paved the way for a lawful medical marijuana sector.

Government’s position has not been entirely clear, with Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite stating repeatedly that he was neither for nor against legalization, but that he wanted the right decision made in the interest of Barbadians.

However, the closest anyone from the administration has come to stating an unambiguous position was when Minister of Education Ronald Jones said in June that people found with small amounts of the drug should not be jailed.

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