As you just heard, the Bar Association has prepared a paper analyzing
the Cannabis legalization law.
As we told you, the bill has been passed in both the House of
Representatives and the Senate. It awaits the assent of the
Governor-General for it to become law. The government has committed
that the bill would not be sent to the GG for assent for a period of
30-days for good-faith consultations with the social partners since it
has generated much public controversy.
The Bar points out, quote,
"If any consultation is conducted during this time, it would be
only a step in good faith by the GOB since there is no requirement
under the Constitution to consult on the Bill."
Turning to the request for a national referendum from the Churches, the
Bar reiterates that in order to successfully trigger a national
referendum, the Churches must obtain at least ten percent of the
registered electors. Once the petition is presented to the
Governor-General, she must then present it to the Chief Elections
Officer, Josephine Tamai.
The Chief Elections Officer will then verify the signatures and that
the churches have met the necessary 10% threshold.
The Bar says that if the Chief Elections Officer verifies that the
threshold has been met, quote,
"The GG mustâ€¦ issue a writ of referendum to the returning officers
of the electoral divisions in Belize within thirty days stating
when the referendum is to be held. The Executive is therefore
legally bound to proceed to referendum once the requirements are
That opinion lines up with the argument from the Churches that it does
not matter if the Government is reluctant or not to hold a referendum.
However, the Bar also points out that the results of a referendum are
non-binding, and that the government isn't obliged to end its marijuana
legalization agenda due to a "no" vote.
On that issue, the Bar says, quote,
"â€¦The results of the referendum are to advise the GOB but cannot
bind the lawmakers. Courts have found that the sanction, if any,
for a Government that fails to abide by the results of a referendum
is a political one. The effect of the above is that if there is a
referendum and the majority of voters votes against the passing of
the Bill, the GOB could still try to get the GG's assent to bring
it into effect. The GOB would however have to live with the
political consequences at the next general elections."
Finally, as to whether or not this referendum push is too late, the Bar
is of the opinion that the Churches haven't missed any deadlines.