Ministry of Health Clarifies Position on Hemp and Cannabis for Medicinal Use
The Ministry of Health takes this opportunity to clarify misinformation being spewed by the opposition regarding two letters signed by the Minister of Health Hon. Pablo Marin in support of two proposed investments to grow cannabis for medicinal and other purposes. Although marijuana comes from the cannabis plant, not all cannabis is considered to be marijuana. Marijuana contains the chemical compound Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which has psychoactive or mind-altering properties. Marijuana was not considered at any point in the letters signed by Hon. Pablo Marin.
In the letter dated 10th February 2016 addressed to Mr. Zev Ben Yosef, there was no mention made of the cultivation of marijuana. The meeting was centered on cannabis farming for the purpose of medicinal use as research has proven that Cannabidiol (CBD), derived from the cannabis plant, can be beneficial for the treatment of cancer and other ailments. It was specifically noted that any psychoactive component of the plant would be removed.
The use of controlled drugs has been legal in Belize since 1990. This proposed investment was in compliance with the Misuse of Drugs Act at that time which according to Section 9 (2) subsection (a) which states:
“That it is not unlawful under section 6(1) of this Act for a medical practitioner, dentist or veterinary practitioner acting in his capacity as such, to prescribe, administer, manufacture, compound or supply a controlled drug, or for a chemist and druggist acting in his capacity as such, to manufacture, compound or supply a controlled drug.”
In the letter dated 14th October 2017 addressed to Mr. Marco Caruso, once again no mention was made of the cultivation of marijuana. The proposed project was for the cultivation of hemp, which although derived from the same Cannabis sativa plant, contains less than 0.3% THC content which is not in any way mind-altering. Industrial hemp can be used for the manufacturing of clothing, beauty products, and also contains CBD which has medicinal benefits. This was in accordance with the recent amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act in 2017 which makes provisions for industrial hemp.
It is also of note that the Minister did not authorize or green light any of these projects, but simply lent his support to what was discussed in both meetings as the proposed investments followed the Laws of Belize. Both plans were seen as new economic opportunities which could provide employment for Belizeans and revenue generation for the Government of Belize. No formal proposal was submitted subsequent to the meetings and that is where it currently stands.
The Ministry of Health will continue to entertain ideas, which can be beneficial both to the economy of Belize and health of Belizeans, once they are within the confines of the law.