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Referendum petition threshold reached, but more signatures still welcome

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Posted: Wednesday, April 20, 2022. 3:49 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: As of this afternoon according to Pastor Louis Wade, approximately 19 thousand signatures have been collected countrywide, passing the official ten percent threshold to trigger a referendum on the regulation and legalization of marijuana and cannabis cultivation in Belize.

Wade, whom we reached on the phone while he was out in villages getting even more signatures for the petition, explained that he has personally vetted 9,500 signatures, and with a further 7,500 from other organizations, they are at 17 thousand total vetted signatures.

A certain number of signatures are questionable and others await further vetting, but just in case, Wade said, he wanted a buffer in the number of collected signatures to be presented to the Governor-General.

Wade, appearing on Channel 7’s Sunup program on Tuesday, explained that the three main sources of signatures come from the Evangelical and Roman Catholic camps and affiliated organizations as well as those collected by the United Democratic Party (UDP). The entire petition will be presented by Senator for the Churches, the Reverend Alvin Moses Benguche.

Wade told the Sunup hosts that the Government and Cabinet cannot interfere with the process of verifying and signaling a referendum, even if the Cannabis Control Bill is signed into law, which it appears it has not been as of today, Wednesday (as it shows up in the draft form on the National Assembly website and not under the Acts of Parliament Section).

And the possibility that the referendum does not go the way the churches might like does not preoccupy the official Bishop’s Representative for the Catholics, Father Tony Anderson.

As he explained, “You know, democracy is a beautiful and dangerous thing because just because a majority of people want something doesn’t make it right. But we live in a democracy. We love democracy. We trust democracy. We have to live with the consequences of democracy. And sometimes those are very beautiful – most often they’re very, very beautiful. And so we – I really trust that this should go to a vote. You’re absolutely right. The signatures that have been gathered aren’t a vote. There’s no there’s no vote. These are not ballots. This is just saying, let the people have a voice.”

Father Anderson reiterated that from his reports on the ground, people want a say and a majority are not in favor of Belize becoming a “marijuana republic” where weed is plentiful for tourists, citing the example of the Netherlands.

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