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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Henry Charles Usher, the Minister of the Public Service, commented on the referendum this morning when he was a guest on Sunup on 7. He outlined the official process of reconciliation that the Elections and Boundaries Department engaged in. They had the duty to confirm that the Churches had met the 10% threshold to trigger the referendum on marijuana legalization.

According to the Minister, early reports from the Elections and Boundaries Department are that the boxes of petitions submitted by the churches 60 days ago were more than enough:

Henry Charles Usher - Minister of the Public Service
"On May 5th, the Governor-General handed over the petitions, and the number of signatures, to the Chief Elections Officer. By law, the Chief Elections Officer had two months in which to verify that the number of signatures met the threshold of 10% of the total voting population. So for the last 60 days or so, the Chief Elections Officer, helped by other workers from Public Service - had requested some additional staff from the Ministry of Public Service, and we provided that staff to her, to go through the signatures, verify that they are correct. Verify that they are voters. You also have to be voters registered on the voter's lists. And yesterday, the Chief Elections Officer submitted her findings to the Governor-General. And of course, it has been reported in the news that, yes, the petitioners did make their 10%. I believe it was 10.0% of the total voting population on May the fifth, signed the petition. So, yes, according to the Referendum Act, a referendum on that particular issue has been triggered. What happens next? Well, the Governor-General has 30 days in which to issue a Writ of Referendum. And then when that writ is issued date is set in that it can be more than 30 days from the date the Writ is issued. So we're looking at a maximum of 60 days from yesterday, which would be September 4th."

Brandon Usher
"And how do you feel that this will swing?"

Henry Charles Usher
"That's a good question. You know, let me say that this is part of our democratic process, and really, we have to understand that. I heard some comments yesterday, but why is it that this is happening now? Why can't the government just pass the law? Well, there is a process or there's a law that allows petitioners to go ahead and challenge certain issues. They want to know what the population is feeling like. And I think that's important to recognize that the referendum act does allow the population to say, you know what, we want to know what the entire country is saying on this particular issue. And it requires that 10% of the total voters sign a petition. So to answer your question, I'm not sure we'll have to find out when the vote happens."

Streets Speak On Weed Vote

The Christians lobby has triggered a marijuana referendum, but how do the regular folks really feel about legalizing weed? We took a walk down "the Alberts" and through Majestic Alley today to check the temperature on the issue. And while it's not yet clear which way Belizeans will vote on this issue, what is clear is that whatever side of the fence they're on, there's quite a lot of passion behind their arguments.

We note that every female we asked declined to answer this question.

Channel 7

Should Marijuana Be Legalized in Belize?

A writ of referendum by the Governor General is pending, following the announcement by the Chief Elections Officer that the churches have secured the necessary signatures to trigger taking the marijuana legislation to a vote. This means that by early September, the decision will be up to the voting population to determine whether the Cannabis and Hemp Control Licensing Bill (2022) should become law. The churches have opted not to speak at this time and on Monday, you heard from Minister of New Growth Industries Kareem Musa.� So today; we headed to the streets to get various perspectives from residents. The reactions were a mixed bag - from consumers, as well as persons who were staunchly against marijuana use.

Bernard "Unlmtd" Cayetano, Resident

"Like I tell yo earlier, I kinda split ina two with the whole decision. I woulda want say yes, but I really woulda want say no because then you have to understand once marijuana get legalize, then the players weh di direct the game dah noh di players weh deh ina di game right now - dah businesses. Then dehn wah put it ina wah way that you need license, you need certificate and a whole pile a thing fi make you could sell weh you di sell. So to me job wah lose fi di ghetto youths weh di try - the ghetto youths weh can’t come out ah dehn area weh di try do something for themselves and dehn community so with that I say no."

Errol Gentle, Resident

"First of all I am glad that it is going to a referendum because I think it is the people that need to decide. Personally I will vote no. I do not support it, but that is just my own personal opinion; the majority needs to decide if they want this to be law or not."

Duane Moody

"Can you tell me why you would not support it?"

Errol Gentle

"I don't smoke, I don't believe that marijuana is good for you, but there's a lot of things that aren't good for you anyways. But personally I don't use marijuana, I do not condone it, but whatever anyone wants to put in their bodies, it is up to them so let the people decide."

Danalia Staine, Resident

"Marijuana should be legalized in the country because the opportunities we could get from the legalization of marijuana, we could provide more jobs for locals. They should legalize it cause the locals can use it to do hair moss, skin care and hair care as well."

Demoi's Williams, Resident

"When you look at other countries that have already legalized marijuana and what it's done for their economy, it has it booming actually. So let's look at it from we are in a recession, we are in an economic crisis, it would do wonders for us in that regard. Also marijuana does wonders for your mental health. Let's be real about that. It doesn't cause any adverse effects on a person so I think there are a lot of misconceptions [so] maybe an education campaign on the health benefits of marijuana would do well. But as somebody who suffers with anxiety and depression, I am for it, all for it. So for an economic standpoint, from a mental health standpoint, it's a no-brainer that we should legalize marijuana. It is actually legal across from all fifty states in America. You see a lot of shops popping up, new entrepreneurship, new business opportunities. Every corner yo turn, it is either a THC or a CBD shop. I think we need to start distinguishing what the properties of this herb actually is. Like there is THC, there is CBD and there is medicinal properties on both sides of it. So you can’t cancel out the whole thing just because you don't like the psychedelic aspects of it. I mean if yo take painkillers, what yo got against marijuana."

Channel 5

Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Prison Population Significantly Lower Due to Decriminalization of Marijuana Possession

And while these children had intervention from an early age to help steer them clear of prison walls, over at the country's only penitentiary in Hattieville, the population now is significantly lower than what it was prior to when the decriminalization of marijuana possession of ten grams or less took effect some years ago. Minister of Home Affairs, Kareem Musa explained to reporters today that that is a direct result of no more prison sentences for possession of little amounts of marijuana.

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs

"The population in the prison now reflects that change. It used to be in 2016 that the population at the prison was one thousand, six hundred inmates, but because of this new legislation in 2017, the prison population has gone down a lot, which means that our magistrates, and rightly so, are not sending individuals to prison for marijuana possession any longer. We are now around one thousand, one hundred inmates at the prison, so that's a very good sign."

Channel 5

Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Kareem Confident In A Yes Vote For Marijuana Referendum

The marijuana referendum is a go after the churches managed to get signatures from over 10% of Belize's population. While no date has been set as yet, the Minister of New Growth Industries explained that it must be done within the next two months.

But what does the minister who championed this bill think about a referendum this late in the game? Well you've heard him say that it's all part of the democratic system. But is he secretly nursing hurt feelings considering the work he has put in?

We asked him today, but he's confident that the vote will be for legalization and that Belize will set the trend.

Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs
"From that day the Governor General then has 30 days in which to issue the writ of referenda which also has on it a 30-day limit, so in all you're looking at a possible 60-day period, so no day later than September 4th we should be having the referendum."

"Do you feel in a way that all the work you've put in, all the consultation you put into this bill might just disappear like that considering that there is a chance that people will vote no."

Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs
"I don't feel that way and it's not just my bill, it is a bill from cabinet. Yes, we have done a lot of consultations and that was very important especially for me, because we have to get the industry right. We've seen in other parts of the world like the United States where it's extremely profitable there, but in other countries its not so profitable and so we have to tailor the bill to ensure that 1) the government does get a tax revenue from it and could possibly be substantially so and as well that we have the social equity portion of it, so that's something very unique to Belize and other Caribbean countries are looking to that and saying you know what we need to include the small farmers, the guys who have been in the industry, running it illegally for so many years. They are a critical part moving forward and so we have to incorporate them in the industry if it is that the vote for a referendum is a yes."

"But have you thought about the possibility what happens if you get a no. What happens then?"

Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs
"I don't feel that it will be a no, because I feel that Belizeans on a whole understand what the vote means, they understand the practicality of it, they understand that the day after election Marijuana will still be legal whether they vote yes or no. It is for us to make sense out of nonsense, because the current law makes no sense whatsoever that you can possess marijuana but you don't have anywhere to purchase it from, you have no way of growing it and so yes the decriminalization in 2017 was a very big step, but it was not the complete step that makes sense and so we are looking to create an industry around it that is responsible, that will have in it regulations and control to ensure that cannabis is not in the hands of young people under the age of 21 and ofcourse there is also the aspect of taxes. 20% of the taxes are going to rehab programs which do not exist in Belize right now. It's going to sporting programs, programs like this to enhance and to develop our young people."

Channel 7

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