Marijuana Decriminalization Bill going to House

By Benjamin Flowers
Staff Reporter

After five years of consideration, the Government of Belize is preparing to take the first step in decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
Authorities have confirmed that the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill 2017, which will decriminalize possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana among other things, will go through its first reading at the special sitting of the House of Representatives, scheduled for August 18.

The Bill will not come into effect until after it has gone through all its readings, therefore decriminalization will not come about immediately.
Former Chairman of the Decriminalization of Marijuana Committee, Dough Sing, explained on Thursday that one of the major victories in the amendment is that GOB will remove industrial hemp from the definition of Cannabis.

“It’s not something that you can get high on, it has an insufficient amount of THC but it does have tremendous opportunity for an industry in Belize. We can make rope, and textiles and many other things with it,” Singh said.

He added that another major recommendation of the Committee was to expunge charges of drug possession from the criminal records of Belizeans who have been criminally charged for having small amounts of marijuana.
Singh said that the amendment will benefit Belizeans who are being hindered from bettering themselves, because of decisions that they made years ago.

“Is a user of marijuana any worse than a user of alcohol?” Singh asked, “and if they are not abusing it, why should they face criminal penalties that will haunt them? Marijuana does less damage than cigarettes do.”
Singh added that in their consideration, the Committee, which was established by Prime Minister Dean Barrow in 2012, tried to distinguish between marijuana users and sellers. The law was geared towards alleviating the legal pressures that users faced, and they chose 10 grams because it was the reference equivalent to 10 cigarettes.

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