Our marijuana laws are nonsensical at best, and discriminatory at worst by Trevor Vernon (from the Amandala today)
"Only sick people need drugs," read the Belize City Rotary Club's bumper sticker some 30 years ago. I remember it well. The Nancy Regan "say no to drugs" slogan comes to mind. I wonder what effect these slogans have had on the minds of Belizeans, urban and rural. It has had very little meaningful effect on people around me. I think these catchy slogans served to murky the waters on what the real issues are.
This writing is intended to be thought-provoking, while making a case for the decriminalization of marijuana when found in personal consumption quantities by the police in Belize. The laws on our books are clearly not in our best interests, and the reports of horror stories by the small people of Belize are enough to make your stomach turn.
Yes, hard drugs are dangerous. But marijuana? Marijuana makes the user sedate, not aggressive and threatening. I think the commercial distribution should remain criminal, but busting a hard-working Belizean man with a "$5 cache" he will smoke before going to bed is absolutely asinine. I know a contractor who was busted with a personal smoke and made to spend the night in jail and fined $1,500. Now that is sick!
In all fairness to the previous government, they did make attempts to do a kind of decriminalization of the herb by not prosecuting people with "personal use caches", less than the appropriate number of grams. The masters of the universe would not have been too pleased, and they would have brought pressures to bear on the former Minister of Home Affairs and the former Prime Minister.
Secondly, one minister of the last administration went so far as to approve a hemp farm in the Cayo District for the eventual purpose of weaving cloth, they say. The masters came down on that former minister and the former PM like a million tons of bricks.
There is another dimension to drug use in Belize, and it's the cruise tourism dynamic. There is a very forceful argument that says that our police and judiciary are made to go easy on and facilitate the quick processing of cruisers found in possession of drugs. There is clearly a double standard when the police make an arrest and lay charges on a cruise ship passenger, and on a hard working laborer on the Southside of any city, town, or caye in Belize.
And the masters seem to be cool with the expeditious criminal processing of cruise passengers through the system when they are busted with drugs.
The cruise passenger is made to get back on the ship with a slap on the wrist, as was the recent case with the male lawyer from New York charged with weed and coke on his person. He was expeditiously taken before a magistrate, allowed to pay his fine with a credit card and immediately released. The system bent over backward and was almost apologetic.
Not so with my friend Franz, the plumber. He spent the night in jail for five dollars worth of weed and charged $1,500, while the coke and weed possession the tourist spent $200 on, only netted him a $500 fine.
US pharmaceutical companies don't want marijuana decriminalized because it would affect their sales of Prozac and other mind-altering prescribed drugs they sell. It's ridiculous, but it real. These companies get their government to turn the screws on poor foreign governments, like ours, to keep up this nonsense.
When are we going to wake up and tell these puppets of the big pharmaceuticals where to go?