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Nov 1, 2021

Medical and Dental Association Takes a Position on Marijuana Legalization

Over the weekend, the Belize Medical and Dental Association issued a statement putting forward its position on the legalization of marijuana.  It follows a survey that was conducted among its membership and takes on a more scientific point of view than the perspectives shared by other interest groups, including the churches.  While the BMDA has stated its position, the Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries has also reiterated government’s position, despite the fact that the proposed piece of legislation is still before parliament.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

As the Briceno administration forges ahead with plans to legalize marijuana and create an industry for cannabis, the debate on whether or not these are appropriate courses of action rages on in various sectors of society.  The Belize Medical and Dental Association is the latest group to come forward with a position, releasing a five-page document outlining its stance on the matter.


Dr. Joel Cervantes

Dr. Joel Cervantes, Cannabis Committee, BMDA

“We took this to our membership and we did a national survey with our physicians.  The findings were interesting, three key points that were interesting.  Less than twenty-five percent of our physicians, membership, agreed that marijuana should be legalized for leisurely purpose.  Approximately seventy-five percent of our membership agreed that in the future there is a place for marijuana from a medicinal perspective if we have the proper regulation and the proper information onboard for that.”


From a legislative standpoint, the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act was brought before both chambers of parliament recently where it was met with concerns by the opposition in the lower house and from the social partners in the Senate.


Kareem Musa

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs

“There were concerns raised by the opposition at that time and so, we addressed those suggestions and made amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act.  So that is reflected.  Not only that, but we consulted also with the churches, we consulted with the Belize Medical and Dental Association and they made suggestions and so we made changes to the amendment act based on those recommendations.  And so now, when it went to the senate, we’re hearing additional concerns from the social partners and so the Leader of Government Business has referred it to the senate committee to consider those recommendations as well.”


A majority of physicians who belong to the BMDA, those in the private and public sectors, are of the opinion that the primary responsibility of the association is to raise public awareness on the benefits and drawbacks of marijuana usage.


Dr. Joel Cervantes

“Ninety-five percent of our membership believes that we have a very important role to educate the Belizean public on the pros and cons of marijuana, for both leisurely and possible medicinal usages. Generally speaking, people think that leisurely use of marijuana is innocuous, in other words, it doesn’t cause any harm.  That is false.  Marijuana has over four hundred chemical compounds and these four hundred plus compounds, the most important one from the perspective of somebody who takes it for leisurely use is that it contains something that’s abbreviated as THC and THC is what gets you high but it has all these other compounds in it.  And if we go to the medical literature, you will see that it does cause bodily harm over a period of time.”


Home Affairs and New Growth Industries Minister, Kareem Musa, admits that the proposed piece of law is divisive.  On one hand there are proponents of marijuana legalization and on the other, there are interest groups, including the churches, that are against it.


Kareem Musa

“This particular bill comes with controversy, of course.  In one breath some people are criticizing it and then the next minute they want to be a part of it.  And so, it goes up and down with this particular bill.  I am not surprised by that, there is a lot of excitement over this bill and everybody wants to be engaged in it and that’s a good thing.  It’s a good thing for democracy and it’s a good for this new industry and so now that we have more and more people wanting to get involved we welcome them but at the same time they have to understand that there’s a framework that we’re working with and this is an evolving law.”


Reporting For News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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