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Sources: Referendum push on marijuana legalization begins among churches

Posted: Saturday, April 2, 2022. 3:43 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Sources say a coalition is being formed to push for a referendum to be held “regardless of the passage or the signing into law of the legalization of marijuana, because the voice of the people must be heard on this issue.”

However, we understand that there is nothing official as yet on the table from one of the most critical opponents to the new legislation, the National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB), according to sources there, although they have publicly called for such a referendum.

We understand that the support for such a referendum “is overwhelming and bipartisan;” moreover, it is “huge and expanding [and] includes those who support legalization who say that the people must be consulted.”

“Lawyers are ensuring that we follow the act; [that] what we are doing is according to the law,” according to our sources.

The information we have received suggests that both major church organizations, the Council of Churches and NEAB, as well as various church education bodies and social partners, are part of the coalition for a petition to trigger a referendum within the next ten days.

According to the Referendum Act, Chapter 10 of the Laws of Belize as most recently revised, a petition may be triggered under section 2 (1) (b) “where a petition is presented to the Governor-General signed by at least ten percent of the registered electors in Belize whose names appear in the approved voters’ list existing at the time of presentation of the petition;” as of February, there were 186,690 registered voters, making the target figure 18,669.

The Act further provides that voters’ full names, dates of birth, places of residence, their respective electoral divisions and other information as prescribed by regulation, shall be provided, and that no person may forge their signature or sign more than once which is a prescribed offence. The Chief Elections Officer and others would be assigned to verify voters’ signatures and certify to the Governor-General that the target is met, who then would issue a writ of referendum where a simple majority of votes cast would carry the day.

The last attempt at a referendum by petition was OCEANA Belize’s campaign against offshore drilling in 2012, at which approximately eight thousand signatures were rejected for not exactly matching those on the Elections and Boundaries Department’s records; in 2008, a constituted referendum on electing members of the Senate was carried, but less than the popular majority voted and the result was not binding.

 

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