All Things Marijuana Considered At CARICOM Forum
In Tuesday's news, we told you how the Attorney General's Ministry was teaming up with the CARICOM Commission on Marijuana to have a conversation on whether that drug should be legalised.
The Commission intends to visit all the Caribbean states, sample the opinions of the citizens and produce a report which reflects the CARICOM groupthink about marijuana its treatment under the law. That report will then be handed over to the CARICOM Heads of Government for their consideration.
The Commission was at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel today for an all-day consultation with as broad a cross section of the population as they could reach. It was well attended, and 7News was there to see how it went. Here's what the Chair of the Commission, and the participants had to say about the hours of conversation about the herb:
Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine - Chair, CARICOM Commission on Marijuana
"Our task is to try to get a consensus position in CARICOM on the legal status of marijuana. So, we come with no pre-conceived positions."
"We're going around the region to try to talk to people, to get their views, also their experiences."
"Part of our task is also to collate whatever information, and empirical evidence is out there."
Rev. Roosevelt Papaloutte - President, Belize Council of Churches
"We felt that the movement to decriminalize a portion, or a small amount of it is a positive step in the right direction to enable our young people who might have already been affected by it, or who may be caught that small portion of marijuana, to be able not to have their lives destroyed, for perhaps misjudgment, or they were misled by somebody, or whatever the position, or the decision, or the things that led to that decision at that time. Give them another chance to be useful, to be meaningful, to be productive in society as well. So, we felt that the decriminalization of a small amount is a positive step."
Pastor Scott Stirm - VP, NEAB
"We think that's a step in the wrong direction. A full legalization of marijuana will have nothing but bad effects. People always use the argument well, what about alcohol, and alcohol has all these problem. Well, we have a problem with the alcohol as well, and many people don't realize that there is no alcohol policy in the country of Belize. There is no tobacco policy, and yet, we've plowed forward with the marijuana, and there is no policy on these things, policy which is supposed to guide us. And so, we believe with all of our hearts that that a step toward - any step toward full legalization of marijuana is a step in a terrible direction. The scientific evidence has been proven, and we could look at places like Colorado where they have legalized marijuana."
Dr. Andre Cervantez - Neurosurgeon
"I think the concept of medical marijuana does have a place in Belizean society. It is something that is budding, emerging. I think it is something that, as a Belizean doctor, along with other counterparts, and responsible people, we should put forward as an option for people who have medical issues. Unfortunately, a lot of people might look at it as a situation to be taken advantage of, so that they can abuse of it from a drug standpoint. So, I am not for it as a drug for people just to get high. That is their personal preference. I am for it for medicinal usage, which as a specialist in my field. And a person who deals with a lot of pain, people at times have very few options after we've exhausted everything, I do believe that responsibly, medical marijuana has a role in our society."
Joshua Hyde - Participant
"I actually started to smoke from I was 10 years-old, and now I am 18 years-old. So, I'm actually smoking for 8 years now."
"Would you say that you consider yourself dependent on marijuana?"
"Some times, when I don't have it. I feel frustrated. If I don't have it in the process of needing it to calm me down, because that's what I use it for, to calm me down sometime. Or, when I am working because some times, I do construction with different people around the village. That helps me to have that energy to work and wanting to work."
After that 3 and a half hours of talks on marijuana, the Commission and the Attorney General Ministry hosted a town hall meeting to continue to conversation. That started at around 5:00 this evening, and it should be wrapping up right now.