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." End quote.

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 must… 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 met." End quote.

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, "…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." End quote.

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.

Channel 7