A virtual town hall discussion was held last night to discuss the hemp industry and its potential economic impact in Belize. The public meeting is part of a consultation process being undertaken through the Ministry of New Growth Industries which falls under the portfolio of Home Affairs Minister Kareem Musa. But, hemp, like its relative marijuana, is not without controversy. Some quarters believe that hemp, like marijuana, may have negative effects on humans. But supporters of the hemp plant say that is not so. Alex Lavin, a cannabis consultant clarified that there is a growing demand for hemp products.
Alex Lavin, Cannabis Consultant: “I think first and foremost getting the testing facility over here is going to be paramount to getting this thing evolved because that essentially is a starting block for so many of the different things when we’re talking about standardization. Besides that one of the things that Minister Musa had just brought up as far as the identification card he had brought up a good point of you know Belizeans – it should be an identification card but they shouldn’t have to pay for that card but tourism would pay a fee which would be a fee that only is tagged to the tourism aspect, you would also have amnesty boxes so essentially those consumers are not leaving with the product which will give a sense of ease to cruise ships and things of that nature. But when you talk about the hurdles I think an educational standpoint is still needed for certain segments and more importantly just making sure that at parliament it goes on a unified front because I can’t stress this enough the industry is already here, it’s already developed. This is not a matter of you know any longer that it takes you’re just having smaller countries that have access to this get ahead of you. So the industry is already here, the regulations were released already so you already have the recreational program so now what you need to do is bring standards and organization to that so I think the educational side of it is paramount and making sure that it’s a unified decision from parliament. Not just international but also in the United States I would say it’s the complete opposite. If you look at Colorado you look at different states like California, Australia, a litany of different countries that have done this teen use has gone down and crime has gone down. And again and I’ll tell you why is because most people might have an understanding that cannabis might bring crime. Where the crime really stems from is the transactions that happen behind the scenes that might have gone wrong not the cannabis itself. So I think being able to bring that to light and doing the tagging and tracing is going to alleviate the violence aspect of it. You know another thing it’s an unfortunate thing but youth in general want what they can’t have so as you make something illegal and harder to get that’s what they’re gonna search for. When it becomes accessible two things are gonna happen the average street dealer is gonna say it’s not advantageous for us to be in the industry because it’s accessible everywhere else and the reality is that all the transactions which is what stems the violence in the drug game will go away because the transactions are all monitored, there’s no discussion this is the price of the product you can’t leave the store without it, you have a receipt just like you woulda buy a t-shirt.”