Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Economy, Featured, Social Issues » Threshold Met: A Cannabis Referendum is Now Certain
Jul 4, 2022

Threshold Met: A Cannabis Referendum is Now Certain

The churches are tonight one step closer to triggering a referendum on the issue of cannabis legalization in Belize. When last we reported on the concerted effort by the religious community to push for a national vote on the issue, several boxes filled with signed petitions were being handed over to the Governor General in Belmopan. Since then, those signatures were carefully vetted by the Elections and Boundaries Department to authenticate and verify the eligibility of those persons as registered voters. After going through that process meticulously, quite a number of those signed petitions were rejected on the basis that they did not qualify for several reasons. Nonetheless, the churches were successful in meeting the threshold required to trigger a writ of referendum in the days ahead. Earlier today, News Five’s Isani Cayetano spoke with Kareem Musa, Minister of New Growth Industries, as well as Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai. We begin our newscast this evening with the following story.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Should cannabis be made legal in Belize? It’s the only question that will likely be posed to the electorate on a date that is yet to be determined. The churches are successful in triggering a referendum during which the voting public will decide whether this hemp plant should be authorized for use without the restrictions that are currently in place for cultivation, sale and possession beyond a certain quantity.

Kareem Musa

Kareem Musa, Minister of New Growth Industries
“It’s a good and wonderful day to see our democracy and democratic processes at work and in particular under the Referendum Act. As you know, any group of people, persons can come together and so long as they can garner ten percent of the voting population’s signatures, they can trigger a referendum on any particular issue. And so I think it’s a good and wonderful day that they have actually been able to meet that threshold. I know it was a very onerous exercise that they had to undergo.”

To get here, the Elections and Boundaries Department had to pore over thousands of signed petitions to ensure that those signatures were from
individuals who are eligible to vote.

Josephine Tamai

Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer
“I can tell you that in terms of the number of petitions that we received, the total was twenty thousand, one hundred and twelve petitions. Of those petitions, a total of eighteen thousand, eight hundred and ninety-one or ten point zero-seven percent of the total number of registered electors were accepted. So eighteen thousand, eight hundred and ninety-one signatures were accepted.”

Having completed that phase, Governor General Froyla Tzalam was written to by Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai earlier today informing her that the threshold has been met successfully.

Josephine Tamai
“I certified to the Governor General that the verification of the signatures of the petitioners have been duly signed by at least ten percent of the registered electors in the entire country. At the time of presentation of those signatures, the total number of registered electors stood at one hundred and eighty-seven thousand, five hundred and twenty-seven registered electors. Therefore, ten percent of that number amounted to eighteen thousand, seven hundred and fifty- three.”

A date for the cannabis referendum is still pending, however, it is expected that a written order commanding the Chief Elections Officer to hold an election of referendum will be issued by the Crown’s representative.

Kareem Musa
“The process goes on to the second stage which the Governor General, within thirty days, is to issue a writ of referenda and within thirty days thereafter, there should be a referendum on this particular issue. I know that would take us somewhere closer to the date of September fourth. I believe that would be the final deadline, sixty days from now, all things considered.”

But what does this mean for an administration that as spent considerable time drafting a new legislation, tabling it in the house, have it go through all its motions only for it to be met with objection from the religious community?

Kareem Musa
“It’s very good for our democracy. It’s always important for us to have a say by the people and in this particular instance, like I said, the people will have a say, despite the fact that a lot of people have said well this is a very costly venture, we should be spending our resources in more priority areas. And also, I’ve heard the fact that they’re saying well what really changes after the referendum because really and truly, the day after the referendum, cannabis will still be legal in the country. And so I think there is a lot of misinformation out there in terms of what we are actually doing. It is actually creating an industry. It is, in my opinion, what the referendum will decide is whether we want to continue to be a
consumer nation or an importer nation as opposed to a producer nation.”

Despite a referendum being imminent, the results of that exercise are not legally binding. Therefore, the Briceño administration can proceed with enacting the Cannabis and Hemp Control Licensing Bill (2022)

Isani Cayetano For News Five

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.

Advertise Here

Comments are closed