Posted: Wednesday, October 27, 2021. 7:08 pm CST.
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By Norris Hall: Mary Jane (MJ) will soon be emerging from her years of being ostracized and maligned into becoming legally accepted as in social circles or to exercise her traditional use as a relaxant or healer of ailments.
In recent years she has received the endorsement of worldwide scientists. She still stimulates debates between science and faith or facts vs perception.
In many indigenous cultures and practices she has been used by traditional healers and in some religious practices as a holy herb by Rastafarians or even as an opiate by the poor and the oppressed.
She is perhaps, an alternative to Frantz Fanon’s declaration that religion is the opiate of the oppressed – perhaps.
But soon life with her is about to get as real as it could with challenges to taboo, perspectives on morality and her role as it relates to the human condition.
Marijuana, or weed, ganga, dope, pot, or many of her other aliases, is expected within the next few weeks, to become a center piece for debate when her legal name, Cannabis is invoked by law makers wanting to give her full legitimacy.
This proposed law (Bill) will pass with little or no debate expected as it was the current Opposition, when it was the government in 2019 that paved the way for the legalization of Cannabis. But that was a half-baked law that simply de-criminalized the herb. It provided for the possession and use of a small quantity of ten grams (less than half an ounce) of marijuana but makes no provisions for how it could be acquired. It certainly could not have fallen like manna from Heaven!!
Cultivation, sale and distribution remain illegal under the de-criminalization law.
In short the law said that to have your spiff it had to be obtained illegally. This made no sense.
The Opposition does not have a single wicket to stand on in the up-coming debate, if there is one. The Bill therefore and without a doubt, will be ratified in short order.
However, the Churches will undoubtedly stand their ground, as would be expected, on Christian principles and to maintain their moral compass as their center of gravity for moral principles. That is their thing.
When the new and innovative marijuana law is enacted, it will be an earth mover from the long held taboos and traditional cynicisms from the ‘earth-is-flat’ perspective.
This new law will not only give legal acceptance for the cultivation, sale and distribution of the herb, but will also provide for the large scale production of industrial hemp for export. It is in demand in a wide range of manufacturing industries from clothing to cosmetics, detergents and preservatives.
But before this law is ratified by the Legislature, it is hoped that certain crinkles in the Bill will be ironed out at the House Committee stage.
It is a relatively voluminous but comprehensive Bill to peruse. One issue that stands out is that it appears that for an ordinary recreational user, a permit will be required to purchase, to inhale and exhale. This appears to be a stretch as no such permit is required to either take a sip at a bar or to buy alcohol.
This needs to be clarified.
However the overall requirements from cultivation, to distributing for consumer use should provide the government much needed dollars in its coffers. This money, if applied effectively, could be used in a number of social programmes from health services to education as a part of a poverty alleviation agenda. This is how the “Sin taxes” are used.
In the United States, where some eighteen States have legalized marijuana, there has been a considerable boost in revenue in the $ millions to fund a number of State-run projects. However, the Biden Administration continues to resist passing a Federal law to fully legalize it.
When marijuana is finally legalized here, Belize will have become another of a growing number of countries to have given recognition to the well-researched science on the application of this herb in medicine, health and social benefits.
But taboos such as prohibitions, are usually deeply imbedded in a society. It requires the force of change and grit to transform a society.
Marijuana in the 1970s was a lucrative invisible trade in Belize. It made a significant contribution to the national economy. In the early 80s however, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (US DEA) persuaded, or blackmailed, the government of the newly independent Belize to frustrate the illegal cultivation of marijuana in the country’s hinterlands.
Using helicopters and Paraquat – a derivative of the herbicide Agent Orange that was used widely in the Viet Nam war, thousands of acres of marijuana plantations were destroyed. But with it, a beekeeping industry that had established a good market for honey in the UK was also wiped out.
Subsequently, cocaine made an appearance on the local scene and Belize became a beachhead for the transshipment of this drug to North America.
Marijuana has for centuries, been used as an herb among indigenous people. It began to gain some popularity in the 1910 decade by Pancho Villa during the Mexican revolution.
However, in the tropical forests there are other plants that are similar to cannabis in looks or in makeup. For instance, the Mexican Chaste Tree has a look-alike leaf as well as a certain type of hemp. There is also a plant, the Spider Flowers that looks like and has the same chemical properties (THC) like Cannabis. It is legal.
A footnote: Marijuana is well known for its many healing properties. A few of its leaves soaked in green rubbing alcohol, along with small pieces of an avocado seed, ginger and menthol crystals provides much relief when the alcohol is applied and rubbed on the affected areas of people who suffer from arthritis. (Disclaimer: This is not a medical prescription).
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