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Discussion on marijuana legalization heats up in first virtual town-hall; Ministry to complete regulations within two months

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Posted: Thursday, January 28, 2021. 8:49 am CST.

By BBN Staff: Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries, Kareem Musa, along with Ministry CEO, Kevin Arthurs, and cannabis consultant, Alex Lavin last night hosted a virtual town-hall via Zoom, which shed light on the government’s blazing plans to ready the country’s infrastructural framework for cannabis production.  

Questions were fielded following the discussion and responding to one in particular, Minister Musa disclosed that the Ministry expects to have drafted regulations for cannabis production complete within an approximate two month time frame. Regulations for industrial hemp, which was introduced by the previous administration, are being revised and should be completed by mid-February. Still, he noted, that at this point cannabis legalization is still in the discussion phase and many considerations will need to be made.

Musa indicated that tourism stakeholders such as resort owners may be able to provide cannabis products to guests but noted that the industry would be highly regulated and standardized to ensure excellent quality for export. Requirements and processes for licenses are being considered by the Ministry. Some participants in the town-hall’s comments offered reluctance to resort owners also becoming licensed distributors of cannabis products.

Minister Musa was also asked about religious rights for Rasta-Farians, saying he was aware of legislation in Jamaica which grant permissions for cultivation by certain members of the religion; and determining that consideration will need to be made in any proposed legislation.

During the discussion, Musa, Arthurs and Lavin surmised that Belize could produce a better quality product than neighbors in the region but noted that local market size will not sustain the industry which is why international export is the ultimate goal. The government expects that cannabis tourism will also factor into much of the earnings.

And while the talk of legalizing marijuana may be moving at a frenetic pace in the last few weeks, these discussions have been happening in the public sphere for several years now as many countries are implementing legislation to legalize marijuana for both recreational and medical use. Still, the issue has many detractors with wide-ranging concerns, questions and fundamental opposition. It remains to be seen how this administration will assuage the concerns of conservative partners like the Church while enacting ambitious legislation that hopes to boost a battered economy and likely provide employment opportunities for a population in which 60,000 Belizeans are currently out of work.

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