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UDP Chairman Says GOB Should Consider the Ramifications of Legalizing Cannabis

As the UDP calls for a referendum, it is important to note that within the red and white camp there is not a unified stand taken on the issue. Chairman Peyrefitte says they have been having the discussion internally, and the majority voice is calling for the people to vote on it. Peyrefitte went on to speak on the financial concerns they are having on the issue, primarily to do with correspondent banking with the United States.

Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman of the UDP: “Well the opinions vary long and wide. When it comes to the issue of marijuana, there are some of us in the party who are strongly for it. There are some of us who are strongly against it. There are some who say yes with certain conditions. There are some who say no with certain conditions and the differences of opinions within the party are the same, basically, as they are within the country and the leadership of the party decided that we needed to put to our sub-leadership whether or not it would be sensible or not for us to go to a referendum on such a huge issue and so we had a Central Executive meeting last night and we did a circulation with the National Party Council today and it was an overwhelming support for the matter to be put to a vote for the people to decide whether or not they want to proceed with the legalisation of marijuana, even though, and I guess we have to be a part of the campaign, that even for those who say yes in principle, as I do in principle, there are certain concerns to say look, we need to be careful as an economy. As I’ve said before in the Senate, while I do support it in principle, there are certain concerns that we must have, such as, whether we like it or not, the United States is the thousand pound gorilla in the room and it is federally illegal in the United States still, even though it is legal at some state levels and; our banking system is closely tied to their banking system and they have repeatedly told us that if you are to engage in that if you are engaged in that type of business, then you need to understand that it would be necessary for it to be federally legal for there to be smooth transactions so as this Government tries to turn it more into a formal sector of the economy, we have to appreciate as well, whether or not the formal economy will accept it as part of just another business enterprise. So those are just the various things that we had. Some people are saying, well damn those torpedoes. Let’s go for it. Some people are saying no, we shouldn’t go for it. So, but we all agreed that the issue was big enough that we would totally support it going to a referendum so that was the position of the party.”

Peyrefitte, who has come across as a supporter of the legalization of marijuana, is appealing to the government to consider the ramifications of establishing a marijuana/hemp industry.

Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman of the UDP: “I have said publicly that if you can legalise cigarette and you can legalise alcohol which, I believe, are far more dangerous than marijuana, if you can legalise those things then why not legalise marijuana? However, whether we like it or not, the powers that be don’t like marijuana and so when you decide to make an industry out of it, you have to consider the ramifications that it would have on other parts of your economy. For example, we have had medical marijuana on the books, on the law books for Belize, for like over 40, 50 years. We’ve always had medical marijuana but no doctor would touch it. Why? Because under the law, a doctor is allowed to prescribe marijuana to you. A doctor is allowed to grow marijuana and give it to you as a patient but no bank or financial institution would touch that doctor’s money. So all of these things need to be in place for it to be a thriving industry and I know the Government needs a shot in the arm. The Government needs a distraction. The Government needs something, for us to talk about something, so, therefore, they are very excited about doing it but my position has always been the same. In principle, I do. I just want to make sure that we do it properly so that we don’t come under sanctions and penalisations as a result of going forward with it.”