BELIZE CITY–Several states in the continental United States of America have turned the sale of legal marijuana, primarily for medical use, into a multi-million dollar industry. Next week voters in three states, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., will decide whether marijuana will be legalized in their localities.
A few months ago, the government floated the idea of decriminalizing a small amount of marijuana, but the proposed policy met with stiff opposition, mostly from church leaders. The decriminalized policy, however, is not completely dead; it is merely resting in the bureaucratic infrastructure that will activate it, if the courage is found for Belize to step up and keep pace with the ever-changing world.
In Belize, the regime of laws and penalties that exist to prevent marijuana use could be frighteningly harsh and appears ancient. Here’s an illustration of this point: Someone convicted on a drug trafficking charge for a half pound of marijuana that would sell for $100, would be at risk of going to prison for three years, besides a mandatory minimum fine of $10,000, or both a fine and imprisonment.
In Belize, there is no marijuana advocacy group. There is just the law, and the law is oftentimes just too harsh, leaving offenders with a lifelong criminal record.
After spending 26 hours in police lockdown and a day and a half at the court, a Belize City man walked out of the Magistrate’s Court with a $605 headache after he pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled drug – 21 grams of cannabis.
Michael Williams, 59, and his son, Keron Williams, 19, appeared before Magistrate Hettie Mae Stewart to answer to possession of a controlled drug charge on Monday morning.
Michael pleaded guilty, while Keron entered a not guilty plea.
Stewart entered the pleas and told both men to return to court at 2:00 p.m., when she will hear the police facts of the charge.
They returned, but as the workday was coming to a close, they were told to return the following day, Tuesday, at 2:00 p.m.
Around 4:00 p.m., on Tuesday, both men were called in before Magistrate Stewart.
And after listening to the police report on the facts of the case, Stewart told Michael Williams that she was imposing a fine of $600 plus $5 cost of court.
The Magistrate also told him that she was being lenient, because she could have fined him $2,100, or $100 for each gram.
The case against Keron was adjourned to December 18.
Michael told Amandala that on Saturday night shortly after 8:00 p.m., he was at his home on Tibruce Street. His son Keron was visiting.
“I was inside the house sitting down when suddenly – heavily armed police came in the yard, saying ‘no body move,’ as they entered the house, pointing guns. I had a small amount of marijuana on me and a piece of fonto leaf in a plastic bag,” Williams said.
“Keron was inside the bathroom and when he came out, the police said they were taking him, too,” Williams explained.
“I told them, ‘don’t take my son; you found the weed on me’. One of the policemen replied, ‘he was in the house when the weed was found, so he has to go,’” Williams recalled.
“When we got to Racoon Street police station, the inspector told one of [the] corporal[s] to just charge us and give us station bail, because they don’t need to keep us at the station. But the corporal said, ‘he is not my boss; my boss is upstairs’, and so they just locked us up until Sunday evening when we managed to get station bail,” Williams said.