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Posted: Friday, April 8, 2022. 9:52 am CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Shyne Barrow: I continue to support the legalization of Marijuana as a matter of social justice, citizen security and economic viability while supporting the churches call for a referendum so that the people can decide in the name of Democracy.

I will vote YES to Marijuana legalization in a referendum as I believe the majority of Belizeans will.

The legislation to legalize marijuana came to the House of Representatives and House Committee for National Security on which I sit, last year July 2021.

I, along with the other members of the House Committee, supported the bill with amendments to address inclusion of small farmers and entrepreneurs as well as ensure that those that have been criminalized for participation in the commerce of marijuana could now have their records clean and be a part of the new lucrative industry.

I went to great lengths to ensure that the bill contained language that would prevent the “big man” from creating a monopoly and boxing out the “small men & women”

In the instance of protecting children, the age for legal usage was recommended to be increase from 18 to 21.

My Opposition Senators made other recommendations to protect school zones and give greater shareholder percentage to Belizeans as a requirement for foreign investors to participate.

The churches and social partners also made other alterations in the Senate that were almost all adopted by Government and put into the final Bill that passed both Houses.

The corresponding banking issue is a moot issue as the U.S. federal government is months away from federal legalization of marijuana.

The U.S. House of Representatives on April 1, 2022 again passed a Bill to federally legalize Marijuana.

The U.S. Senate Majority Leader confirmed that he will bring the Bill to the Senate for a vote this month, pointing out the economic benefits to legalization as well as citizen security because legalization will allow our security forces to focus their resources on real crimes that threaten our quality of life.

Jamaica legalized marijuana several years ago and has been used as an example of life after legalization in particular as it relates to banking.

I spoke to the Governor of the Central Bank of Jamaica, Mr Richard Byles, a few days ago and he reports that while the Marijuana Industry remains unbanked there are no issues with the Government of Jamaica tax collection on those unbanked monies that make it into the Treasury.

There are no issues with employees of Marijuana businesses and other providers of goods and services to marijuana businesses as far as banking is concerned.

I spoke to executives in Jamaica’s Ministry of Finance and Tax Services and they all confirmed what the Governor of Jamaica’s Central Bank informed me; GOJ is collecting taxes on the unbanked marijuana monies and putting it in the Treasury with zero objections from the Corresponding Banks.

I also spoke to high ranking members of the Jamaica security forces who maintain there has been zero exposure and no increase in crimes as a result of bandits targeting the unbanked monies.

Alcohol is a leading cause of death world wide due to drunk driving, severe health issues and violent crime caused by consumption, none of this could be said for marijuana, yet alcohol is legal.

Tobacco is another leading cause of death globally yet is perfectly legal.

Marijuana has been legalized in many nations across the globe including U.S., Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, Czech Republic, Portugal, Russia, Croatia, Spain, Ukraine, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Africa with none of the adverse impacts opponents hold as the reason for opposing legalization.

The Report of the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana, 2018. The relevant sections read:

“The evidence indicates that the existing legal prohibitionist regime on cannabis/marijuana is not fit for purpose. Both the financial and human costs are huge. The Commission is satisfied that there should be significant changes to the laws of the region to enable the dismantling of this regime to better serve Caribbean peoples. A public health/ rights-based approach is better able to confront the challenging multidimensional parameters of the drug problem, including its health, social justice and citizen security aspects.
Small farmers and small businesspersons should be included in production and supply arrangements with appropriate controls limiting large enterprise and foreign involvement.”

I respect Belizeans with differing positions on the matter which is why I accept the call by the churches for a referendum, however, I feel strongly in favor of abolishing the draconian laws prohibiting marijuana use and commerce.

I also feel strongly about reversing the irreparable harm done to so many who have been scarred by the criminal justice system for use or commerce.

I feel strongly about the economic development that the multi billion marijuana industry will bring to Belize which will alleviate poverty and protect our children from the real threats which are lack of financing for education, business and job creation.

For all the above reasons I support marijuana legalization thus should there be a referendum I will vote YES to legalization.


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