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An Update on Marijuana Referendum

The marijuana referendum has been put on pause. This was announced by Cabinet last week in a brief which stated that the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister responsible for Religious Affairs met with church leaders during which they discussed the matter of holding a referendum on the legalization of cannabis. After learning of the outcome of the meeting, Cabinet accepted the recommendation to defer the referendum until further notice and to make the necessary amendments to the Cannabis legislation to ensure that the bill will only be enacted into law after the holding of the referendum. One key concerns shared by the banks is correspondent banking. Home Affairs Minister Kareem Musa gave us an update. 

Kareem Musa, Minister of New Growth Industries: “One of the major banks had raised an issue. One of the bigger banks in the country had raised an issue about correspondent banking and assuming that we would have been banking the cannabis dollars in our banking sector but again that’s not the case. So while it is that correspondent banking will always be an issue, in Belize and the rest of the Caribbean, the real point is that it’s a costly referendum and so it is $5 million dollars for us to do this referendum and to me that is the real reason but at the same time, as we put a pause on the legislation, we have time to tighten up whatever loose ends there may be in terms of correspondent banking but in my respectful opinion, that will never be tied up so we had to figure a way, we would have to figure a way, whether it’s opening community banks or credit unions that do not have correspondent banking in order to bank the dollars here in Belize. That is the solution and there are several international companies who have expressed interest to come and open these community banks here. So there are solutions to that but like I said, the primary concern at this time is the cost of the referendum. As I always say, it’s a cash industry, so when you ask me about banking, banking does not necessarily come into the picture unless you’re banking your cannabis dollars. So, even in the Caribbean and the great United States where it is a $92 billion dollar industry, it is a cash industry. So individuals who are engaged in the cannabis sector do not go and deposit their funds within the banks, that does not happen, even in America and so like I keep saying that is the way we would have to operate in Belize if we legalise cannabis. That was always known so it’s not a matter of downplaying.”