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Oct 30, 2018

Ministry of Health’s Position on Proposed Hemp and Cannabis Cultivation

The idea that it may be time to legalize marijuana has taken centre stage in the national discourse.  It was proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceño, and immediately became a lightening rod.  G.O.B. jumped up with a release blasting Briceño, saying such proposal would have serious implications to the relations with the United States.  On Monday, the PM called the idea fantastical and a looney tune.  Well, by today, documents surfaced showing that a senior member of his cabinet has already officially expressed support for the legalization of weed.  This letter, dated February tenth, documents that on February fifth, 2016; the Minister of Health Pablo Marin had discussions on the matter with businessman Zev Ben Yosef. He confirms that along with his former C.E.O. Peter Allen, they had discussed with Yosef’s team, the proposed establishment of a cannabis farm for growing, extracting and developing cannabis for medical application. Marin adds that the objective would be to develop and export products demonstrating the well-documented medical proprieties of cannabis.  The letter also mentions the strategic location of Belize in the region and its ability to access CARCIOM and SICA markets. It also was not lost on the minister that Belize is “two hours from major gateway ports of the United States.”  Marin seemed to have been well ahead of the Prime Minister because a year ago on October 2017, he signed off on another letter to Marco Caruso of the Placencia Hotel and Residence expressing support for the development of commercial production of hemp in the Stann Creek District.  He names four conditions: that the product be exported to a company with relevant state licenses; that the processing plant and the culture of the hemp plant be in accordance with the laws of Belize; that the land must be fenced and that Caruso must comply with the relevant the laws of Belize. So there you go. It is not confirmed whether Marin had the full blessings of Cabinet or acted alone. In any case, the senior minister has been consistent on his support for the production of hemp and cannabis. For context, here is what the Prime Minister said on Monday:

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: October 29th, 2018]

“This latest googly of his has to be one of the most fantastical ever, to propose legalizing marijuana in Belize; especially for an export market is patently bizarre.  Indeed, it is downright dangerous since it would certainly provoke one response I can immediately think of that would surely destroy us.  So we pour scorn on the notion.  Now I need to make clear that this has nothing to do with any kind of moral calculus.  While I don’t know enough, either from research or experience about marijuana, my instinctive feeling is that it can be no more harmful than liquor.  But in any event, I repeat, morality is not the basis for G.O.B.’s position.  Rather, it is the question of how on earth we could legalize and for export when the weed is still illegal in all of our neighbouring countries and especially in the federal United States of America.  If we grew weed legally in Belize, the cartels who are now clandestinely landing planes and using us as a base for the transhipment to the U.S. would come in and take over production in Belize.  They would continue to illegally penetrate the U.S. but from a legal production platform in Belize.  What do you think the U.S. would say and do about that?  Even now, when marijuana and all psychotropic drugs are illegal in Belize, the U.S. annually excoriates us for not being successful enough in stamping out such drugs in Belize because some of those drugs continue to find their way into their U.S. market.  Notwithstanding all that, Belize would, if the Leader of the Opposition were ever to be charged, provoke the Americans by legitimizing and providing a beachhead for further penetration into the U.S. of drugs originating in Belize.  If that ever happens, goodbye correspondent banking, goodbye financial system, goodbye trade, goodbye lifeblood.”

 

That argument shows a Government out of touch. As recent as July fourteenth 2018, the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana recommended the legislation of weed after a four-year study concluded that one hundred and eighty-three million people worldwide smoke weed. The report of the commission is titled “Waiting to Exhale – Safeguarding our Future through Responsible Socio-Legal Policy on Marijuana.”  The analysis found that the majority of the Caribbean people believe that the cannabis laws are ineffective, incongruous, obsolete and deeply unjust.

 

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