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The Churches Inch Closer to Triggering a Referendum

Tonight, the churches are only four thousand signatures away from triggering a referendum on the legalization of marijuana in Belize. The National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB) and its associate churches nationwide have been leading the charge against GOB’s cannabis bill. They’ve managed to collect a little over fifteen thousand signatures in less than a week. Today, NEAB members were at the Belize City bus and water taxi terminals trying to collect more signatures. Pastor Louis Wade, a member of the NEAB, says the feedback was overwhelming.

Louis Wade, Member, N.E.A.B.: “We are not joking on this issue. We are extremely serious that a message has to be sent to the Government that you can’t just talk to your partners who smoke weed along with you and your little crew, whichever part of the city is your hub and believe that you have the sentiment of this entire nation. Belize is not made out of two districts: Belize City and out-district. Belize has six districts, villages, communities, some are conservative, liberal, moderate countries. There are parts of the city, maybe, that are affected positively by the marijuana trade but there are other parts of the country that are affected negatively by the marijuana trade. This is why we asked for a referendum so that I am not polling my church people who don’t smoke and you are polling your people who smoke and all of us feel like we are talking on behalf of the people. The referendum brings us to a neutral place where statistically, mathematically, we find the pulse of the nation. No politician should be afraid of the pulse of the nation. The church shouldn’t be afraid of the pulse of the nation. Listen, there are people in the church who don’t want a referendum. They’re afraid. The people, the politicians are afraid and my thing is: get the pulse of the people. If the people say yes, the people say yes. If the people say no, the people say no. And so the opinion, the idea, grew in the church and then the church decided it was going to spearhead it. So this is a hub and it is only one of the hubs across the country. There are another four or five locations in Belize City and then there are four or five locations in Belmopan. We have in Toledo district, Orange Walk district, Corozal district as well as in the Cayo area. So what is happening here is happening across the country.”

Pastor Wade says that the unions have now jumped on board in the fight against the legalization of cannabis in Belize. Wade says he is confident that a referendum will be held.

Louis Wade, Member, N.E.A.B.: “First of all, 20,000 signatures in a week is no easy feat. No political party can do it. They cannot do it. No NGO can do it. The church has only been able to do it because of the collaborative work with other organisations. Only yesterday, the unions who approved the referendum came on board to get petitions. Yesterday! Another union came on board only today. You know how we Belizeans go. We sit down on the fence wondering if it is going to fail, then if it fails we will say, boy you all tried a thing. But then when they see you begin to succeed then they want, everybody wants to be a part of that success so we go one step at a time. We pull the trigger first. After we pull the trigger, we submit the signatures to the Governor General and we wait. The Government can do what it wants but the voice of the people is what is the most important thing in this country. You know the people have already spoken on this issue you know. By virtue of the fact that we have already pulled over 13,000 signatures in five days. Maybe the man on the street doesn’t understand what that means but I bet you the politicians understand what that means already.”

Reporter: Sir but do you believe that your efforts might just end up being futile given that, you know, the minister has said that 20,000 signatures doesn’t automatically mean a referendum will be triggered and if the Cabinet does indeed say there’s not going to be a referendum, what’s the church’s next step? 

Louis Wade, Member, N.E.A.B.: “Who else came on record and agreed with the good minister?”

Reporter : You are answering a question with a question though sir. 

Reporter : “Does the church feel that the efforts are futile at this point?”

Louis Wade, Member, N.E.A.B.: Who else came, publicly, and agreed with what the minister said? I’m waiting on you.”

According to Wade, the churches were able to gather over five hundred signatures in Belize City today.