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Latest on Marijuana Bill #556546
04/06/22 05:29 AM
04/06/22 05:29 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 83,511
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

How Much Does A Weed ID Cost?

So, we shift now from all that talk about a referendum on marijuana to the changes contemplated in the Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Control and Licensing Bill. It has already received the approval of the House and the Senate to become law, but how will this new law-in-waiting affect marijuana smokers?

Our Daniel Ortiz took a closer look at the regulations today, and here's his story:

Since November of 2017, marijuana users have benefitted from the decriminalization of 10 grams of marijuana.

It wasn't a perfect legislative solution, but it did allow citizens the ability to possess 10 grams or less of the herb, and not worry about police prosecution for the drug that was completely illegal.

File: November 3, 2017
Michael Peyrefitte - Former Attorney General

"You are not allowed to smoke it in public. So you have your 10 grams or less and you want to go home tonight and watch the game or do whatever you do at home, in your yard whatever you are free to smoke your marijuana tonight."

The Briceno Government is now moving toward legalization of the drug with their Misuse of Drugs Amendment of 2021, and their Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Licensing Bill of 2022. If and when these bills become law, persons who are 21 years or older will be able to possess recreational marijuana, but it will be more strictly regulated.

According to the Cannabis and Hemp Industry Licensing Bill, anyone who wants to be legally allowed to possess it will have to apply to a 9-member Cannabis Control Commission, which will oversee all aspects of the industry.

Smokers will have to apply for a Cannabis Program Identification Card, which will allow them to possess 28 grams or less - up from 10 grams under the current decriminalization.

In order to apply, you must fill out the prescribed form, submit a valid form of ID, and pay a non-refundable application fee of 50 dollars - 100 if you are not a citizen or permanent resident of Belize.

If you are a citizen of Belize, that Cannabis Program Identification Card will be valid for 24 months - only 12 months for noncitizens and persons who are not permanent residents.

With this card, you can purchase cannabis from a Central Nursery that will be created under this new law, or any dispensary licensed by the Cannabis Control Commission. Of course, you are not allowed to sell, distribute or transfer the marijuana you purchase to someone else - meaning you can't use your license to purchase weed for family or friends.

Several of the Social Partner Senators have publicly disagreed with these pieces of legislation being tabled at the House and Senate:

File: March 30, 2022
Bishop Alvin Benguche - Church Senator

"No matter how many consultations are held, in so far as the church is concerned, this is not the direction in which we should be going at this time."

File: March 31, 2022
Kevin Herrera - Business Senator

"I think legalization is moving ahead prematurely without considering the lessons we've learned from nicotine and alcohol prevention policy research."

File: March 31, 2022
Janelle Chanona - NGO Senator

"How will employees use be able to be handled by employers? Will they be able to use products and then come to work? Will they be able within a certain period of driving, in terms of on the motorways, we know that has been an issue for countries who have done this in other jurisdictions. We know the challenges we've had with driving under the influence and road traffic accidents, I think still being one of the 3 reasons for death in Belize even today."

Can Everyday Smokers Afford Weed ID?

So the Marijuana bill is going through the motions and Minister Musa says there may be a third set of amendments after revision from the social partners in the Senate. But one thing that will remain, as you just heard, is that you'll need a special "Weed ID" to purchase marijuana from dispensaries. We asked the minister if he thinks the everyday marijuana smokers who live below the poverty line would be able to afford this.

Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries
"I think it is an expense that the domestic population that consumes is willing to pay. It is far better than having to be charged every other week and having to pay fines to the court of $200, $500, $1,000 just for having in your possession marijuana and so it's a far less cost that you have to pay, but at the same time we have to be able to see a revenue for it for the government of the day. We also need to have a proper enforcement in place, so the cannabis monitoring unit that would be going around testing the various cannabis products across the country, they are going to need resources in order to do their jobs and so we believe it is a very small cost to pay given the fact like I said. Historically it has resulted in severe fines, it has even resulted in incarceration and so it's a far cry from the fines and incarceration."

"I've spoken with a lot of them and all of them are in support. Of course, they have their concerns, they've been burst by politicians in the past, but if it's one thing that we are going to ensure is that obviously we cannot include everybody. We have to be real when you are creating a new industry, but at the same time those farmers who had been doing in illegally, we have to find a way to grandfathered them into a social equity licensed and we have to ensure that they are growing very safe products up to standards' Again, because we will be providing this not just to locals but to tourists as well and so there is a lot of training that will have to go into it for the social equity licenses as well, but also the dealers on the streets, especially Belize City we have to find a way to incorporate them. Like I said it cannot be everybody that will be incorporated, but our focus has to be on definitely getting them into the industry, because it makes absolutely no sense for us not to include them and then to be competing with them, because I am sure they will continue their illicit trade if they are not in our industry, they will continue importing Mexican cannabis and so that makes no sense for any of us."

Churches Want A Weed Referendum - Minister Says “Too Late!”

Tonight, the national discourse over the possibility of full legalization of marijuana in Belize is heating up, with a mounting resistance that is loud, visible, and vocal. Several organizations are publicly calling for the Briceno Government to push the pause button on its legalization agenda, and the National Evangelical Association of Belize is leading the charge for a referendum.

In a press release, the NEAB said, quote, "...The people of Belize should be given a voice in such a radical shift in the moral fabric of our society... Every nation or state that has legalized marijuana has done so by Referendum. Except [for] Belize." End quote.

Shortly afterward, the Belize Council of Churches, a sister organization to the NEAB, followed up with their own press release offering moral and health reasons why legalization is a very bad move for the country. They also said, quote, "banking issues may arise from funds derived from the sale and distribution of a drug that remains illegal in many countries with which our banks have relationships." End quote.

Following those two organizations, the UDP also issued its own release, supporting NEAB's call for a referendum. And this afternoon, it was the National Trade Union Congress of Belize that also joined in with their support.

So, what does the Minister of New Growth Industries think about the public agitation for a referendum to poll public opinion? Well, he said it's a little too late for all of that since the Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Control and Licensing Bill has already been passed in the National Assembly - and on top of that, it would also be a massive waste of money. Here's how the minister explained it.

Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries
"Unfortunately, this request is coming at a very late stage bill pass in the house and in the senate. It had the support not only of the leader of the opposition, but also the members of the opposition as well as the senate very vocally so, Senator Sheena Pitts and so it has the support not just of the government, but also of the opposition. I believe lead senator Courtenay has given the social partners a month if they want to request any further changes. So this is a third round of changes that we are potentially looking at. But for all intents and purposes the bill passed last week."

"I think the leader of the opposition or rather the United Democratic Party also put out a release in support of the referendum and what can I say, they have already indicated that they will support the bill and support the referendum - support a yes vote, which again I thank them for, but they certainly can afford to do that because will not have to foot the bill of a very costly referendum. It is the tax payers of the country that will actually have to pay and its in the millions of dollars, let be real. So you have 2 mass political parties that are supporting a particular bill, we already know mobilizes voters when it comes to a referendum, so you imagine you have the PUP and the UDP mobilizing constituents for a yes vote and so we kind of already know what the outcome of the vote will be, so I believe it will truly be a waste of resources unnecessarily so and I can tell you that while it is that the churches are asking for a referendum, I have gotten more calls, more comments from people even on social media saying please do not waste millions of dollars on a referendum which we already know what the outcome is going to be and so as leaders you truly have to be very decisive, we are stewards, not just of the policies of government and the direction of a country, but we are also stewards of the public purse and so we cannot afford to be reckless and just say okay a couple hundred or maybe a couple thousand people say we want a referendum, let's spend 2 million dollars on a referendum."

UDP Flip Flops On Support for Marijuana Bill

So as you heard, the Minister of New Growth Industries is fundamentally against a referendum. On the flip side of that coin, the Opposition UDP says that the only way to settle this matter decisively is with a referendum. They insist that it would quell any lingering doubt in the public mind about what Belizeans really want when it comes to marijuana legalization.

Of course, skeptics are questioning whether or not they're pandering to the churches and other social partner groups who are calling for a referendum. Interestingly, back in 2017 when the Barrow Administration was in office, they received big pushback and resistance from the churches who kept pointing out that the decriminalization of 10 grams of marijuana would contribute to the country's moral decay.

But, on full legalization, they have become unlikely allies? In a zoom interview from today, the press asked UDP Senator Michael Peyrefitte what's up with that? Here's his response:

Senator Michael Peyrefitte - Chairman, UDP
"Opinions vary long and wide when it comes to the issue of marijuana. There are some of us in the party who are strongly for it. There are some of us who are strongly against it. There are some who say yes, with certain conditions. There are some who say nor would certain conditions. And the differences of opinion within the party are the same, basically, as they are within the country. And the leadership of the party decided that we needed to put to our sub-leadership whether or not it would be sensible for us to go to a referendum on such a huge issue. And so, we had a central executive meeting last night, and we did a circulation with the National Party Council today. And it was overwhelming support for the matter to be put to a vote, for the people to decide whether or not they wanted to proceed with the legalization of marijuana. Nothing settles issues better than elections. And when we are so deeply divided, then you take it to the people. The will of the people is always supreme over anything. So, when you have a situation in which are so deeply divided, let the people decide."

Reporter
"The administration, which you were a part of, was by and large responsible for the decriminalization of marijuana in Belize as it stands now. But all of a sudden, we are hearing from the UDP that perhaps a referendum is the way to go. How would you respond to those criticisms, sir?"

Senator Michael Peyrefitte
"I would say whoever is criticizing us is talking foolishness because what is being attempted now is completely different from what we did. What we did was like a Cuban wet foot, dry foot policy. If you're able to have it in your possession, ten grams or less, and you're smoking it in the privacy of your home or the privacy of somebody else's home away from children, we said that was a middle ground. And, given the fact that people do smoke marijuana, and people do it with marijuana, it was as far as we could go on a first step. But we took it as far as we knew we could be a problem for the rest of the economy. The PUP wants to take it to another level, and I think that the public needs to be aware of that before we agree to a law that transcends by far what we did. So, the criticism that we are asking for a referendum for the same thing that we did, that's an ill-informed position."

We also asked Opposition Leader Shyne Barrow for a comment, and via WhatsApp, he told us quote, "I continue to support the legalization of Marijuana as a matter of social justice, citizen security, and economic viability while supporting the churches' call for a referendum so that the people can decide in the name of Democracy.

I will vote YES to Marijuana legalization in a referendum as I believe the majority of Belizeans will…

I respect Belizeans with differing positions on the matter which is why I accept the call by the churches for a referendum, however, I feel strongly in favor of abolishing the draconian laws prohibiting marijuana use and commerce.

I feel strongly about reversing the irreparable harm done to so many who have been scarred by the criminal justice system for use or commerce.

I [also] feel strongly about the economic development that the multi-billion marijuana industry will bring to Belize which will alleviate poverty and protect our children from the real threat which is lack of financing for education, business, and job creation."

The Problem With Banking Marijuana Money

As viewers may be aware, however, the rush for "green gold" in the marijuana industry has thrown up major bumps in the road for countries that have made the decision that Belize is contemplating. Currently, one of the challenges facing countries like Jamaica is their banking sector's hands-off approach. Banks are very hesitant to do business with companies that specialize in the legal marijuana trade. That's because cannabis is still treated as an illegal drug in the larger nations that control international banking.

Also, smaller nations depend on countries like the US for correspondent banking relationships to provide international services. The US federal policy of treating marijuana as illegal could mean that the US banks would most likely de-risk any financial institution in other countries that provide banking services for the employers and employees in their local marijuana industry.

As viewers are aware, de-risking is a major difficulty for the banking sectors in small countries, and so, Belizean banks will have to grapple with this issue in the near future. This evening, we spoke with Glen Ysaguirre, the former governor of the Central Bank of Belize. He provided us with some insights on why a Belizean marijuana industry would face similar challenges:

Glen Ysaguirre - Former Governor, Central Bank of Belize
"In the cannabis industry generally, globally - even within the United States - the fact [is] that the industry remains largely unbanked or underbanked. In the US, we have this situation where there are certain states that are legalizing medicinal cannabis and other recreational uses. And so, they are banks that have a state charter; in those states [they] can receive the proceeds. But, there's been no legalization of this industry from the federal side. So banks that are federal banks, or licensed by the federal authorities, cannot and will not bank marijuana-related businesses, because they may be subject to some adverse regulatory sanctions from the federal regulators. It's a fact that the banks that we conduct correspondent banking relationships with are either subject to federal regulations or they are - they require access to the federal system to move international wire transfers and other transactions. So, they will also be subject to the same restrictions from the federal side, as any other American banks that are part of the federal system. So, while banks local banks may want to participate, I could see that they have good justification to be hesitant because they may be subject to some de-risking by the existing correspondent banks. And I say Correspondent Banks cautiously because I think most of our banks may only have one relationship, and maybe several of them have this relationship with a single correspondent bank. So we need to be careful. And I guess the government does still have to be very careful."

Opposition Leader Shyne Barrow also weighed in on this banking issue saying, quote, "The corresponding banking issue is a moot issue as the U.S. federal government is months away from federal legalization of marijuana.

The U.S. House of Representatives on April 1, 2022, again passed a bill to federally legalize Marijuana...

Jamaica legalized marijuana several years ago and has been used [as] an example [of] life after legalization in particular as it relates to banking.

I spoke to the Governor of the Central Bank of Jamaica... a few days ago and he reports that while the Marijuana Industry remains unbanked there are no issues with the Government of Jamaica's tax collection on those unbanked monies that make it into the treasury."

Channel 7


Re: Latest on Marijuana Bill [Re: Marty] #556563
04/07/22 05:26 AM
04/07/22 05:26 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 83,511
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

.
Marty  Offline OP
Musa Says There Will be Cannabis Public Awareness Campaign

Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa says G.O.B. is committed to carrying out a public education and awareness campaign on the pros and cons of cannabis. He also noted the high percentage of Belizeans who use marijuana, and the fact that other substances far more harmful are legal.

Kareem Musa, Minister of New Growth Industries


“I hear the church’s call for greater public education and awareness campaigns. That is something I will certainly, as a minister, and our government, undertake to do. There has to be a public education campaign about the pros and cons, benefits and risks involved in cannabis. That has to be out there. I assured them of that the two times when I met with them. I see that call being made again and I am going to take the opportunity to say that we will fulfil and do undertake to have that public education campaign. It is estimated that thirty percent of our population is currently consuming cannabis. That thirty percent will continue to be there, whether we make it legal, or not. The fact is it is decriminalized at the moment and like I said, you don’t know what it is you are consuming. So, that thirty percent will always be there. And, if you are going to go down the road of discussing morality, we can discuss alcohol abuse and other drug abuse. But, alcohol is legal and it is more harmful to your health. That is what science is saying, not what I am saying, tobacco, and cigarettes, also legal in the country. I think for propaganda purposes over the last hundred years or so, there has been this propaganda against cannabis. But, at the end of the day it has been shown by science that it is not more harmful than the wine we are drinking in church.”

Channel 5

Re: Latest on Marijuana Bill [Re: Marty] #556597
04/08/22 11:03 AM
04/08/22 11:03 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 83,511
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

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Marty  Offline OP

Legalization of Marijuana in Belize
Discussion on the pros of the legalization of Marijuana in Belize.

Re: Latest on Marijuana Bill [Re: Marty] #556673
04/13/22 05:37 AM
04/13/22 05:37 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 83,511
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

.
Marty  Offline OP
Musa Sets the Record Straight for Cannabis Legislation Timeline

While there seems to be some discrepancy about the timeline given for additional changes, the Minister of New Growth Industries reiterated that the extension granted by the senate is not for the gathering of signatures to trigger a cannabis referendum.

Kareem Musa, Minister of New Growth Industries


What I heard in the Senate was when the Leader of Government Business got up and said that he was going to give a month, not for a referendum, but for any changes to the law. So let’s be very clear there, he wasn’t saying, you have a month, go get your signatures. It’s one month to get changes to the law. He then got up at the end of the debate on the bill to say, “You know what, it appears that you all will never, ever agree to this and so we are moving now because you’ve had all the time to recommend changes over the last year and four months. We’re going to give you until the eleventh of this month, which was yesterday.” I have to see whether or not it was passed into law I don’t know.”

5,000 Signatures Remaining; Is Cannabis Referendum Still Possible?

Today, the National Evangelical Association of Belize proudly announced a milestone, despite not fully realizing the number of signatures needed to trigger a referendum on the cannabis legislation. The churches are at the helm of a countrywide effort to garner as many as nineteen thousand signatures, is still five thousand shy of reaching that target. Nonetheless, it is acknowledging its achievement thus far, notwithstanding the limited timeframe during which these signatures must be gathered. But is it too little, too late for the religious community to lead this charge, considering that the proposed legislation has already received the approval of the senate and should be going before the Governor General for ratification?

Kareem Musa, Minister of New Growth Industries


“The church has all right, and I keep saying this, to utilize whatever is in the law to their favor. What I have said already is that we have consulted with the churches even though I am hearing now that they are saying they were not consulted. They were consulted in October of last year; we have minutes of that meeting. At no point did they ask for a referendum. Let’s make that very clear and I am not gonna call anybody anything, but there was no request for a referendum. There was NEAB who did not attend that meeting, for whatever reason, we invited the Council of Churches, NEAB did not come. I understand that Pastor Wade has been clamoring for a referendum, that’s one voice. There now seems to be this unity at this very late hour when the bill has passed. So we made corrections, time and time again. No other bill has ever been revised the amount of time that this particular bill has because of the amount of consultation that we’ve had. So it’s not just the churches, we’re talking about the Belize Medical and Dental Association, we’re talking about the Chamber of Commerce, we’re talking about the social partner senators. All of them had input in this bill to what it is today and they are changes that I feel were better for the bill. So I am totally happy with the progress that we’ve made with the bill, but the bill has passed. We’ve reached that point, the bill has passed. So at this late stage, again I am saying this, the church has all right to do what they feel is right. Whether they are within the time limit, I don’t know. That’s for somebody to decide, but it’s very late for them to come with this referendum after all the consultation we’ve done.”

Isani Cayetano

“So it’s a moot exercise essentially?”

Kareem Musa

“I’m not saying that just yet. I am saying that they have all right to do that, to exercise their right to garner a petition for ten percent.”

Channel 5

Re: Latest on Marijuana Bill [Re: Marty] #557049
05/05/22 04:51 AM
05/05/22 04:51 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 83,511
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

.
Marty  Offline OP
Shyne Discusses UDP Position on Cannabis Referendum

On Tuesday, Orange Walk Central caretaker Denny Grijalva, himself a religious leader, presented a little over six thousand signatures on behalf of the United Democratic Party. It was part of a concerted effort undertaken by the churches to trigger a referendum on cannabis legalization. Grijalva joined the Belize Council of Churches, as well as the National Evangelical Association of Belize, in presenting the petitions to the Governor General. This morning, Party Leader Shyne Barrow spoke briefly on the U.D.P.’s position on the possible referendum.

Shyne Barrow, Leader of the Opposition


“As far as the referendum is concerned, the United Democratic Party did offer our support for the churches if it is in fact that they feel that the way to decide this pressing matter was through a referendum. I personally support the legalization of marijuana, but the United Democratic Party is not monolithic, it‘s not homogenous. We have a diverse pool of personalities and beliefs and I believe that this an issue where there is room for distinct opinions and beliefs. I have no difficulty with Mr. Grijalva participating in his passion for the referendum is not homogenous.”



Channel 5


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