Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Belize’s federal government have introduced a piece of legislation that, if passed, would remove criminal consequences for anyone caught with 10 grams of marijuana or less.
Under the proposed guidelines, smoking in the comfort of one’s own home would also fall under the decriminalization protections, while certain instances of possession (on school grounds for example) would still warrant a monetary fine.
According to Nation News, the Barrow administration is introducing the Misuse of Drugs Act amendment to help move the country on a progressive path, a set of moral guidelines not exactly in line with the country’s politically strong church groups.
“I am excited; clearly it is only a first step and a small step, and I know there will be the naysayers; I suspect we are going to hear from the churches.” Prime Minister Barrow said. “But I feel as both a matter of conviction that it is something good to do, but also that the society as a whole will support it.”
As predicted, it didn’t take long for Belize’s church groups to voice their strong opposition to the prohibition rewrite. The National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB) brought up fears of child safety, and warnings from the country’s Drug Control Council “a couple of years ago” as reasons they want to continue the full force of cannabis criminalization.
To try and quell as many “too fast, too soon” voices as possible, PM Barrow has been very clear in the distinctions between the proposed decriminalization and legalization or commercial cannabis.
“Because I gather that already on the talk shows, the level of, not ignorance, perhaps wishful thinking, is amazing.” Barrow said about the public perception that decriminalization might lead to streets full of stoners lighting up at will. “So we will have to let people know that basically we are creeping before we expect to walk. And it doesn’t go nearly as far as I am sure a lot of people would like. So you are perfectly correct; there will have to be some sort of an education campaign.”
Before anything can move forward, the bill needs to pass. The proposal has been sent to the Health and Human Development Committee of Belize’s House of Representatives for further approval before hopefully making its way through the rest of the country’s legislature.