Since the beginning of the month, we've been telling you about the
decision by Kareem Musa, the Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth
Industry, to lead a serious conversation with the Belizean public about
the possible legalization of cannabis. The Briceno Administration wants
to explore the idea of establishing a marijuana and hemp industry in
From the Minister's perspective, this is a potentially lucrative
endeavour that Belize has not seriously considered. The Ministry is
being advised by Alex Lavin, a pro-marijuana advocate, and expert who
has established marijuana industrial operations in the US.
He's now in Belize and last night, the Ministry of New Growth
Industries held a virtual town hall meeting, in which Lavin and Musa
spoke extensively on the topic to the Belizeans who tuned in. 7News a
part of that discussion and Daniel Ortiz reports:
For this 1st Town Hall Meeting to discuss marijuana legalization and the
possible establishment of a Cannabis industry in Belize, the Ministry of
New Growth Industries attract the attention and a little more than 200
Belizeans who tuned in via Zoom teleconference. They were there to find out
how serious the Government was about progressing to these big stages on a
very controversial topic.
The head table established very early that this needed to be a calm and
Kevin Arthurs - CEO, Ministry of New Growth Industries
"We know that there's a lot of enthusiasm because we received over 150
questions. This is more a regulatory and explorative conversation that we
hope to have, and as we go through that, there are some rules that will
help us to move forward quickly and respectfully."
Hon. Kareem Musa - Minister of New Growth Industries
"We have been sitting by as spectators, watching the rest of the world take
part in this very lucrative industry. How do we move forward in a very
responsible manner? I must emphasize that."
Alex Lavin - Cannabis Consultant
"I've been coming to Belize for close to about 7 to 10 years now. And one
of the things that I was always trying to drive home is - first and
foremost - the beauty that Belize has, but the natural climate that it has,
and if it ever wanted to be a player in the hemp or cannabis industry, the
importance of having standards because the industry has evolved so much
that if Belize does not catch up to those standards, there will be no
market for Belize."
Probably the biggest message that the consultant brought to the virtual
town hall meeting last night was the importance of high standards in any
potential cannabis industry in Belize. If there ever is to be successful
Belizean marijuana or hemp products, consumers, both domestic and external,
need to be assured that it is of high quality and that harmful chemicals or
processes weren't used to manufacture them.
"Take a bag of potato chips, Doritos, any brand that you can think of,
Cheerios cereal, every single one has to tag and trace from beginning to
end, to know where the wheat came from, to know how it was processed. Who
processed it? What batch number? If there is an error, you need to be able
to find it. If it turns into a wild-wild west, then the reality is that no
one, not an investment group, banking, not anyone will take Belize
seriously in this industry. So, the importance of standards is paramount
for Belize to move ahead in this industry."
"What if somebody would also say that listen, in Belize, those high
standards don't apply. That's not what we do here. And here, we could
simply call somebody and get a pass."
"I would tell you to be very cautious from a health standards standpoint
because every single product that I've tested in Belize tests very high in
mold, powdery mildew, and pesticides. So, I would also caution these people
that are maybe accustomed to maybe purchasing in that angle. Let me tell
you that majority of it is coming from Mexico. So, Belize is not
benefitting anything from any of this. To the individuals who say that they
can call their normal dealer to go and get it for them, I would caution
them that this is a health standard standpoint, and this involves the whole
nation, not just that one individual. It also includes the tourists who are
going to come into this country, that are accustomed already to a quality
of product that they're used to getting. Do you want to smoke a
contaminated product? Do you want to buy a chocolate chip cookie that's
laced with pesticide? Why would you want to smoke cannabis that's laced
On the regulation side of this plant, these are a few ideas that the
Ministry has for Cannabis.
Hon. Kareem Musa
"Take, for instance, Kevin, that I have in my possession, and I can have in
my possession - all day long - 10 grams of cannabis. So, from 8 o'clock to
9 o'clock, I can smoke 10 grams, from 9 o'clock to 10 o'clock, 10 grams, 11
to 12, ten grams. That adds up the amount of cannabis that one can consume
in one day. It adds up. But now, think about putting in place regulations,
whereby you are issued a registration card. And we're saying that going
this route, you will have an ID that whenever you go to a store to
purchase, it will be scanned in that you purchased a particular product,
and it was only 10 grams. And we can limit that purchase. You cannot go
over that. So, even if we adjust it to 20 grams, which I'm not in favour of
that. I don't think anybody should be smoking more than 10 grams for the
day. But, if you go and register your card. And you scan your card, you
cannot get any more for the rest of the day."
On the establishment of a local cannabis industry, the Minister thinks that
time is running out for Belize to pursue this and stay ahead of the global
progression on marijuana.
Hon. Kareem Musa
"What we have to realize is that there is a very small window of
opportunity. Because right now as we speak, you can see it every single day
on international news, Mexico is moving forward with adult use only, and
medicinal consumption of marijuana. In the United States of America, all of
the states are moving in the direction of medicinal and recreational use of
marijuana. It's going "federal", as they say. And once it goes federal, it
is now like any single product that you have. It's like a pack of
cigarettes. So, in very short order, if Belize does not capitalize at this
very moment, to get some economic benefit from this, we will continue to be
an importer nation. We will be importing Marlboro cigarettes, cannabis
The Minister is proposing marijuana policy changes to be rolled out in a
few months' time.
Hon. Kareem Musa
"Where it goes from a discussion to a policy, to legislation, I think is
where Miss Audrey is asking. And, I would want to say within 2 months, in
terms of cannabis regulation. Industrial hemp, we are already revising
those regulations. And, that should be ready by the middle of February. I
know a lot of you in this particular Zoom are interested in moving forward
with industrial hemp. I know everybody is eager and excited to move
forward. We want to take our time with this."