Headline — 24 November 2015 — by Rowland A. Parks

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Nov. 20, 2015–Several countries in the world have adopted a more liberal approach to marijuana, and some of the states in the United States have legalized it, creating massive economic opportunities for their citizens. In Belize, however, the harsh drug trafficking law with its hefty mandatory fine and prison time remain.

Kirk Dougal, 38, a fisherman, and Walter Beaton, 41, a taxi driver, were busted by police at the George Price Highway, police checkpoint near Mile 5, on May 11, 2013, and police say that the drug amounted to 25.1 kilograms of cannabis.

The case against the men, charged with drug trafficking, has been winding its way through the Magistrate’s Court since January 13, 2015. It concluded on Wednesday before Senior Magistrate Sharon Fraser.

Both men were found guilty and sentenced to the mandatory $10,000 fine plus prison time.

Beaton was sentenced to three years in prison and he has to pay his $10,000 fine by April 30, 2016; if he fails to pay, he will have to spend another three years behind bars.

Dougal, who has previous drug-related convictions, was sentenced to four years in prison, and if he fails to pay his $10,000 fine, he will have to spend another three years in prison.

Police discovered the cannabis when they searched a Dodge Caravan that the men were traveling in.

During the trial, it was revealed that at around 8:40 p.m., PC #1171 Ruben Ixim was conducting a search, at the checkpoint when the Dodge Caravan pulled up. The vehicle was being driven by Beaton, and Dougal was in the passenger seat.

The cannabis was found in the back of the van behind the passenger seat. A test of the substance at the National Forensic Lab confirmed that it was cannabis.

In the trial, both men denied having knowledge of the cannabis being in the van. Dougal told the court that he was only hitch- hiking a ride and that he had no knowledge of the weed being there.

In mitigation pleas, however, both men begged the court for leniency.

Beaton told the court that he is a father of 8 children and that he is the sole provider for his family, because his children’s mother does not have a job. He said that he is very proud of his children and is looking forward to seeing two of his daughters graduate from high school within the next year or two. He said he needs to be free to provide for them.

Dougal also explained that he is a father of six children and is their sole provider.

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