We also got an opportunity to speak with his Cabinet colleague, Kareem Musa about the public concerns that have been raised about the Government's Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill of 2021.

If it becomes law, the amendment will legalize marijuana and create an industry which the Government wants to regulate. But, at last Thursday's Senate Meeting, members of that Upper Chamber pointed out what they see as important gaps and omissions not contemplated by the current draft of this bill.

We asked Musa about the Government's attempts to address those concerns, and here's what he had to say:

Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs
"As I understand it, the bill has been sent to senate committee. As you know when we had the house committee there were concerns raised by the opposition at that time and so we addressed those suggestions and made amendments to the misuse of drugs amendment act. So that is reflected. Not only that, but we consulted also with the churches, we consulted with the Belize medical and dental association. They made suggestions and so we made changes to the amendment act based on those recommendations. And so now, when it went to the senate, we're hearing additional concerns from the social partners and so the Leader of Government Business has referred it to the senate committee to consider those recommendations as well."

Reporter
"The BMDA has expressed concerns in relation to this and said that there need to be further changes, I think some very significant ones."

Hon. Kareem Musa
"This particular bill comes with controversy, of course. In one breath some people are criticizing it and then the next minute they want to be a part of it. And so, it goes up and down with this particular bill. I am not surprised by that, there is a lot of excitement over this bill and everybody wants to be engaged in it and that's a good thing. It's a good thing for democracy and it's a good for this new industry and so now that we have more and more people wanting to get involved, we welcome them but at the same time they have to understand that there's a framework that we're working with and this is an evolving law."

"Many jurisdictions present a law and overtime because it's a new industry there are changes made. So if you listen to everybody you'll never get the bill passed, because everybody has their own ideas as to how this should be presented. We have this framework which has been applauded in other jurisdictions as well, because it has the social equity component which other jurisdictions do not have."

We also asked the Minister about the perspective of some of the bill's toughest critics who say that the Briceno Administration is moving too fast on marijuana legalization. Here's how he responded to that:

Reporter
"There is a speed, a rush. That's what they are trying to suggest. The critics of this bill is saying you ought to slow down. Is that a valid concern?"

Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs
"You have to understand that our administration came in on a mandate to rebound our economy. Its been a year. Some people will argue and say it's taking too long, because this is one of those industries where we can see significant value back to our economy, back to getting that 10% for our teachers and our public officers. But if it is that they want to drag it out another year or so, then so be it. At least I did my part. Our administration did their part to present it. But of course we have to understand there are concerns, so we will take those concerns into consideration."

Reporter
"Based on the concerns you've heard from everyone, which are the areas that are critical that you would see those changes made?"

Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs
"Well the NEAB, Angelical association put out a release and their concern was that this would attract cartels to Belize. I don't know if there is a disconnect or they are not understanding the current situation with marijuana in Belize, but it is cartels currently running it. Their fears that cartels coming to Belize is misplaced since that is what is running the streets right now. Our young men are killing each other over this plant and it's because of the cartel involvement, so we are trying to regulate that industry. It cannot be that you have something that is decriminalize, but people have no way of getting it, so we are trying to plug those holes by putting in place this law that the government will be able to regulate the industry."

The Belize Medical and Dental Association put out its own 5 page position paper this weekend, saying that less than 25 % of physicians agree with the legalization of Marijuana for recreational purposes, while approximately 75% agree that the legalization of Marijuana (Cannabis products) for medicinal purposes could eventually be beneficial if proper scientific data and guidelines are followed.

The BMDA urges that before the proposed amendments for the "MISUSE OF DRUGS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2021" be passed and enacted into law, "the Government of Belize embark on an open and serious public campaign to educate the Belizean society at large on the projected benefits of these amendments" and concludes, quote, "The BMDA DOES NOT SUPPORT all the proposed amendments for the "MISUSE OF DRUGS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2021".

Channel 7