Highlights — 27 February 2015 — by Adele Ramos
Marijuana decriminalization paper goes to Cabinet

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Feb. 26, 2015–The long-awaited final report from the Marijuana Decriminalization Committee will be released tomorrow, Friday, at Spoonaz Café on North Front Street in Belize City. Amandala has been reliably informed that a copy of the paper, which proposes to remove sanctions from the private and personal use of marijuana, has been sent off to National Security Minister John Saldivar, for presentation to Cabinet and hopefully by the time Cabinet meets to deliberate on the matter, it would have already had a gauge of public reaction to the recommendations.

The Committee’s proposals maintain the view that marijuana possession of 10 grams or less (that’s about a third of a pound), enough to fit in the cup of one’s hand, should be decriminalized. This does not mean that a person will not face any consequences at all if found in possession of 10 grams in public; rather, such possession in public spaces would attract a fine; and smoking in public would, if the recommendations hold, still attract criminal sanctions.

Jamaica’s Parliament recently approved decriminalization of possession of 60 grams of marijuana, equal to about 2 ounces or just over 2 handfuls worth of marijuana.

Marijuana-DecriminalizationThe Belize Decriminalization Committee, appointed in 2012, reviewed the report submitted to Jamaica’s cabinet back in 2001 and a report for the Canadian government filed around the same time. In 2011, Canada decriminalized the use of 10 grams.

There have also been extensive consultations with various community groups and churches before the formulation of the final report, which we understand is 47 pages long and which should be available Friday on mybelize.net.

The special drug court, which will eventually hear these cases, apparently won’t come on stream before these decriminalization provisions are made law.

Once Cabinet gives the green light to the recommendations, a suite of legislative amendments would be drafted for passage by Parliament.

 

(Click the image above to see PDF version of the document.)

The committee’s recommendations propose that while smoking in private would be permitted, smoking in front of children would be criminal because it would endanger the health of minors.

Marijuana possession in public spaces would not result in criminal records or incarceration, but could attract fines of $15 per gram (or $150 for 10 grams), with two-thirds of the proceeds going to the court and one-third going to the National Drug Abuse Control Council for Drug Education.

Marijuana trafficking laws, which cover possession over 60 grams, in Belize would remain untouched, and laws to ban the possession of marijuana plants – deemed cultivation – are not recommended for amendments.

In recent years, there has been a global wave to decriminalize marijuana use.

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