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Kareem Musa argues marijuana industry needs more regulation, not demonization

Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2023. 12:27 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: This time last year, the coalition of churches in Belize was completing the process that put a halt to the push for the legalization of marijuana in Belize, obtaining enough verified signatures to force a referendum which has since been deferred until further notice.

And it didn’t take long following Tuesday’s marijuana edibles incident in Belize City for the National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB) to remind that legalization of marijuana, in its view, carries too many pitfalls for Belize.

But what is needed, argues Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries Kareem Musa, is not demonization of the drug, but proper regulation which the Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Control and Licensing Bill, 2022 and Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill, 2022 would provide.

“At this point in time, following such a scary situation like this, involving children, nobody, absolutely nobody, not even the Minister, has an appetite to discuss this at this time. But if you understand what it is that we were trying to pass were regulations and that is what has been absent. So it is obvious that the advocates against legalization will take this narrative to a next level, but what they are really arguing is not anti-[legalization], they are arguing anti-regulation,” Musa told reporters.

Belize already has decriminalized possession of marijuana, but if cultivation, sale and related industries cannot be regulated, then it is ‘the wild wild west,’ said Musa, and this current situation is an argument for proper regulation.

The laws, which have been deferred, would have, for example, set 21 as the legal age to possess marijuana (with an identification card) and regulated edibles such as those which sickened children earlier this week. Importation and sales of marijuana-related products have risen in the last few years and no one knows what is in them.

“I would argue that anyone who understands this particular process knows that we are living, in the last five years, in a legal absurdity. [In] 2017, everybody in the House and everybody in the Senate supported the decriminalization of cannabis – but where are you going to get it from? How do you know what is contained in these substances that are being imported? That is the whole reason for regulation – to test it, to test these products to make sure that they are safe and that they stay out of the hands of children,” said Musa, adding that it was something both he and the traditional churches had insisted on.

Now, Musa questions, the opponents must ask themselves this: “What are you going to do about it, that is the question. Now that you have put out that information that we all know, what are you going to do about it? Are we going to continue to live in this legal absurdity? That is what we want to do – continue the status quo? To me that makes no sense.”


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