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Minister of New Growth Industries Says Belize Inches Close to Legalizing Marijuana

In January, Cabinet approved the formation of an inter-ministerial committee to review the Misuse of Drugs Legislation to recommend amendments to facilitate the proper development of the hemp industry and to establish a national hemp policy as well as monitoring mechanisms. Later on, in June, Cabinet approved the amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act that would provide for the creation of a regulated and responsible cannabis industry for Belize. During Friday’s Belize Investment Forum in the City of Miramar, Florida, Home Affairs Minister Kareem Musa was asked if the government is looking at the medicinal purposes of cannabis.

Kareem Musa, Minister of New Growth Industries: “Our country as you know in 2017 we passed legislation decriminalizing ten grams of cannabis so you’re allowed to be in possession of ten grams of cannabis and so what that means then is that it is already recreational. You don’t have to go to a doctor in order for you to have ten grams of cannabis. So we’ve already overcome that hurdle of medicinal but what you may also be aware of is that at the same time in 2017 when the then government legislated the ten grams of cannabis they also legislated hemp, industrial hemp, which has medicinal qualities and we do have some farmers in country who have been planting hemp. There were some thirty six companies that were issued license for hemp, so far only about two of them are actually off the ground and they have products, medicinal that have these healing qualities like you say so when you look at hemp and you look at cannabis there is  the medicinal component and of course you could look at it recreationally we’re already at that stage of recreational so it’s anticipated that both will be incorporated. So the doctors association they were very curious about that and of course they will be included in the industry, especially the neurologists because they find that the CBD really helps with their patients with epilepsy and that sort of thing so there will be a medicinal component as well but like I said it’s not just medicinal we will have recreational too.”

According to Minister Musa, the Amendment of Misuse of Drugs Act is expected to be read a second and third time in the House of Representatives later this month.

Kareem Musa, Minister of New Growth Industries: “I’m pleased to report like I said at the next meeting of the House of Representatives, we are hoping to have the second and third reading of the Misuse of Drugs Act which is like you said the cannabis legislation which would then introduce a regulated system, a lot of people like to say you are legalizing marijuana, it’s not that. We are regulating it to ensure that we have an industry in place. We are ensuring that we have tax revenues coming to the Government of Belize from the industry while at the same time ensuring that the small man there is a social equity component, social equity license, that you can’t find in any other jurisdiction so it’s something that we’re very proud of. So there will be a criteria that you have to meet. Of course it has to reach international standards because if it is that you’re going to be giving tourists or offering tourists any of your products it cannot be that it has mildew or rot it’s product that’s meeting the standards and so that is something very important to bear in mind. We’ve had consultations with the opposition and they made some very good points at the committee meeting. For instance they’re saying well how is it that you’re saying you cannot apply for one of those licenses if you have a criminal conviction ? We’re all aware that a lot of our young people in Belize have criminal convictions for marijuana and so we have made a proviso in the legislation thanks to the input of the opposition that if it is that you have a conviction that is marijuana based only you can still apply and you can still be eligible for a license so that’s very important. Another one of the changes that we’re going to be making came from the consultation we had with the Belize Medical and Dental Association they were saying that the age of 18 is a bit young for you to be able to purchase any of the cannabis products and so we’re moving that up to 21 years old. We think that is a very good suggestion coming out. So there’s a lot of consultation going on but at the same time like I said it’s going to be introduced at the next sitting of the House and after that we have to put in these regulations like I said to set up standards for the industry moving forward. We have to get it right and we have to learn from the other jurisdictions which have been failing unfortunately where it is that we can make it beneficial like I said for the government, for the businessman and for the small man.”