A Belize pastor says several religious bodies have written to Prime Minister John Briceño urging that a “people’s referendum” be held ahead of the passage of the amendment to existing legislation allowing for the decriminalization of marijuana.
Possession or use of ten grams or less on private premises was decriminalized in November 2017 and Cabinet has already given its approval to introduce revised legislation that will provide for the control and licensing of the cannabis industry and to establish the necessary legislative framework to govern and regulate the cultivation, processing, distribution, and delivery of cannabis products for adult use only.
Under the Referendum Act, Chapter 10 of the Laws of Belize, a referendum may be triggered when a petition receives the signatures of ten percent of the voting population, or 18,669 votes in that case as it stands now.
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Pastor Louis Wade of the Belmopan Church of the Nazarene said regardless of the fact that the churches have “pleaded, begged (and) lobbied” they have so far been unsuccessful in getting the government to review its position.
He said churches belonging to the Belize Evangelical Association of Churches (NEAB), as well as the Council of Churches, “have agreed together that since government doesn’t want to give a referendum to hear the people’s opinion on the issue then the church will trigger a referendum.
“It is only one time in the history of our country that we have triggered a referendum, and if you will recall, it was during the offshore drilling argument, when18,000 people signed a petition for the government to trigger a referendum.”
Pastor Wade said the church is committed and “we have sought and are getting a very wide group of organizations, a wide coalition that is together partnering with the church.
Late last month, Roman Catholic priest, Father John Robinson, issued a pre-recorded statement warning that legalization of the cultivation, use and sale of marijuana is akin to “clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs.”
The priest is predicting that passage of the legislation will “negatively affect Belize in the near future” and that “this bill would legalize the growth, production, distribution, and sale of marijuana throughout the entire country of Belize.
“People have asked if the Catholic Church has a position on this bill. The answer is yes, and the position can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is the official teaching of the church. I quote: ‘the use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense,’” Father Robinson said.
“Legalizing marijuana does not change the immorality of drug use. That which is immoral harms both the person and society. What legalizing marijuana will do is set up a contradiction between God’s law and man’s law, increasing its use throughout the country, including among youth. It will lower the moral standards of the country; it will increase violence throughout Belize.
“It will impact tourism, making Belize less family friendly. The black market will actually grow, and other drugs will be more abundant and available. It will increase corruption within Government. It will increase addictions. It will produce health complications for many Belizean users,” said Father Robinson.