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Is Industrial Hemp in Belize’s future?

For the first two months of this year, the country’s imports totaled $280.9 million, an increase of 1.6% or $4.3 million when compared to the first two months of 2017. Exports for January and February totaled $48.5 million, this was a decrease of 19.6% or $11.8 million compared to the same period in 2017. The unbalanced ratio of exports to imports have been plaguing Belize for many years. However, the Government is attempting to close the gap by signing onto trade agreements with regional countries and investing in existing and emerging sub-sectors. One of those sectors is industrial hemp.  During day two of the Budget Debate, Minister of Trade, Investment and Commerce, Tracey Taeger-Panton announced that Government is moving full steam ahead with the production of industrial hemp, something that raised concerns from Toledo East Representative, Mike Espat.

Tracey Taegar- Panton, Minister of Investment Trade and Commerce: “These initiatives underscore the government’s pro business approach to stimulating a medium to long term growth strategy for Belize. We are exploring new subsectors for income generation such as the industrial hemp industry. Regulations are now being drafted to put into place the necessary management framework and operational guidelines that will provide an enabling environment for the development of new products for export.”

Michael Espat, Area Representative, Toledo East: ” I heard the member of Albert talking about industrial hemp, I wish you luck Minister because the American Government will come down on you with all the heat that they can put on you. Because we tried that too. We tried it too, people came to us with all those proposals. They did not accept it because both of them look alike. When you fly with the helicopter over the fields they can’t identify what is industrial hemp and what is regular marijuana. So I wish you luck. It’s something good, it’s something that we need to follow to see if we can eventually use it but they may not allow us to do so.”

Industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa and is of the same plant species as marijuana. It is legal in Belize and prohibiting the production of it is against the constitution.