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Referendum on marijuana legalization not delayed; churches, Government ‘negotiating’

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Posted: Monday, July 25, 2022. 9:00 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: On July 4, Chief Elections Officer Josephine Tamai officially issued her report verifying that the church community had met the threshold to trigger a referendum on two pieces of legislation passed by the Government.

By law, the Governor-General would have 30 days to issue a writ of referendum and thereafter, the date of referendum would be 30 days from the date of issue. The former deadline is August 4 and the latest date at which a referendum could therefore be held is September 4.

But both sides say there will be a referendum – they are simply working out the details.

On Friday, the spokesperson for the Belize Coalition of Churches stated ahead of going into another meeting, “There is no delay. The church’s strategy is working, and I believe it will continue to work until the government is ready to listen to the players around the table.” He noted prior warnings, publicly and privately, from other organizations about the “dangers” of progressing with marijuana legislation and creating a “cash-based” industry, which he says has caused the government to “slow down” and begin to listen.

Wade projected further developments to be announced after Cabinet meets on Tuesday.

Separately, Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Constitutional & Political Reform, indicated that the date of the referendum is solely up to the Governor-General and the Elections and Boundaries Department is getting prepared: “As you know last week in the House, a supplementary bill was tabled. A part of that bill was five million dollars set aside for this referendum. It was passed both in the House and the Senate and so I know that the Chief Elections Officer is probably already – because she is somebody who likes to be prepared – she’s probably already sending that request to start the process of getting the supplies needed. Of course, you know this is like holding a national election so she has to designate and identify public officers who will be manning the polling stations for this ballot.”

Wade meanwhile said he could not say whether the Governor-General’s decision to officially set the date is dependent on the negotiations, but argued that while those meetings are in progress, the fact that dialogue is occurring is good and that interested Belizeans “should pray and talk about the issue and ensure that what comes out of it is good for the nation of Belize.”

As for the question to be asked, Wade said it is the one crafted by the churches when it gathered its petitions, and Usher said that no other question can be added to the ballot paper for the referendum unless it concerns the same issue.

 

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