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Belize Council of Churches Garner Support for Weed Bill Referendum

Today, the National Evangelical Association of Belize and the Belize Council of Churches say that they have reached an important milestone in their effort to trigger a national referendum on marijuana legalization. On Tuesday, Church Senator Bishop Moses Benguche will be presenting about 20 thousand signatures from Belizeans, who want the referendum, to Governor General Froyla Tzalam. Pastor Louis Wade, Jr. of the evangelical association discussed the latest developments in a late evening press briefing.

Louis Wade, NEAB Member: The Governor General has responded and has set Tuesday morning at 10:00 AM 2nd of May as the day when the small group will be going to visit the Governor General and the Senator of the church will be presenting the petitions. We have a small buffer, these 19,000 signatures have been vetted. We want to use the next couple of days to continue to shore up that buffer and so we expect any petitions that are outstanding to come in so that they can be vetted on Monday and presented along with all the other petitions on Tuesday. The last couple of days we have not been in the media much because we were of course waiting for response from the Governor General and we continued the process of vetting of the petitions. We wanted to be sure and are now very confident of the petitions that we will submit that because of re-registration, because most people have their ID cards and there is also a vetting tool available on the elections and boundaries website we are confident that the numbers that we will submit will stand any true rigorous authentic honest vetting.”

As we’ve reported, the legislation – after amendment – has passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Briceno administration has held off on implementation for the time being. However, the Bar Association of Belize today issued its opinion on the matter, saying in part quote “Belizean Courts (NEAB VO STARTS) have decided that a referendum does not legally bind a government to its result so the government may still pass the Bill legalizing the production and sale of marijuana even if the majority votes against it in a referendum. This is because the results of the referendum are to advise the GOB but cannot bind the lawmakers” Unquote. It adds “Courts have found that the sanction, if any, for a Government who fails to abide by the results of a referendum is a political one.” End quote. Even with that, Wade says that the Churches have welcomed the Bar’s position openly.

Louis Wade, NEAB Member: That’s the role of the Bar Association and they’re absolutely right. We knew that going in. And what we are looking for is for a government that is willing to listen to the voice of the people. So we take one step at a time but there is nothing negative in the opinion that the Bar Association placed forward in fact it is perfectly in line with what we knew from the very beginning going in.”