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Educational campaign to be launched before a referendum is held on the legalization of cannabis

The petitions were submitted on May 5 of this year and Tamai says the verification process commenced immediately. Today, our newsroom, asked Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries, Kareem Musa, if the government will now launch an educational campaign to inform the public about the pros and cons of establishing a controlled marijuana industry.

Kareem Musa, Minister of New Growth Industries: “I think an educational campaign is something that has been going on for the last year and a half since we first introduced this bill. It is as a result of that education campaign and as a result of the consultation with various stakeholders including the churches that we were able to make various amendments and not just amendments but even presenting a whole new bill as they had requested, a separate stand alone bill that was presented earlier this year and even passed in the House of Representatives and the Senate. So consultations has been there. I think there’s been widespread discussion in terms of a public education campaign we can expect to see some advertisements coming forward. I’m sure both for and against the creation of an industry surrounding cannabis and at the end of the day that really is the question. Because whether the churches like it, whether Vejea likes it, whether I like it the day after the referendum cannabis will still be legal in Belize. We have to accept that. You Marisol I don’t know if you consume but you can have ten grams and no police officer can question you about that. What we are trying to do is move away from being just a consumer nation, an importer nation. We are importing believe it or not as crazy as it sounds we’re importing cannabis that we don’t know what is in there. Whether it is laced with other substances, whether it has something in there that’s addictive we don’t even know what we’re importing but we continue to be an importer nation. What we’re saying by this referendum you as a Belizean you get to decide will we have greater control ? Will we have greater regulations? We will know what it is that you are consuming ? Meaning on every single package that you purchase will have CBD content, will have THC content, will have what type of cannabis, will ensure it doesn’t have pesticides or mold that is harmful to you. So that is where we’re moving towards.”

Musa also commented on the possibility of the bill being stroke down through the referendum. According to him, the only loss that will be registered is the three million dollars that tax payers will have to cover for the cost of the voting exercise.

Kareem Musa, Minister of New Growth Industries: “There has been no money spent in the Ministry of New Growth industries , we don’t even have a budget so it’s no money lost there. Where the money is going to be lost is in fact in the referendum how you look at that because that could be very costly but at the end of the day it’s not something that’s just what I believe in it’s what makes sense. We have to make it make sense. Right now the law doesn’t make any sense that you cannot grow, you cannot purchase but you can have. Does that make any sense ? It certainly doesn’t make any sense to me and so the government and cabinet saw it fit for us to create an industry which will not just create jobs, which will not attract new and fresh investments to the country but it will create a new revenue stream, a tax revenue stream and we’re talking from the sale of the cards to tourists that is estimated at around $10 million a year just in sale of cards without selling one single gram of cannabis that’s a whole new income and revenue that the government never had. And so it is being able to say this is the situation we have in Belize, it is legal for you to have ten grams but where will you get it. I think that we have a very sophisticated and educated population so you’re asking me about crystal ball I do believe that we will all arrive at the conclusion, not all but a majority will arrive at the conclusion that it only makes sense for us to have an industry that we can control, that we can regulate, that we can ensure that children under 21 do not have access to cannabis. I don’t think that the government will move forward with the bill if it is that a majority of the voters feel that it’s not at this time it’s not the best thing for us to do.”

Musa also weighed in on whether the government will seek to include other matters to be voted on in the referendum. He stated that the decision is solemnly left up to cabinet but he does foresee that some issues may be included.