Editorial — 03 July 2019
Belize will follow AMLO when Mexico legalizes it

We know that it won’t be too long before marijuana will be a legal drug in Belize, because in many countries in our region the signs of the end of marijuana prohibition can be seen. We know that one of the things that separate human beings from other animals is our capacity to pass on information through generations. Thus we are able to build on the knowledge of our ancestors and thus we are able to avoid the follies of our ancestors. It is incredible that having gone through alcohol prohibition, that human beings would apply the same cure to marijuana.

Prohibition is the term used to describe the period in the USA when the sale of alcoholic drinks was decreed illegal in that country. Prohibition became law in the USA because temperance groups, mainly made up of churchgoers, became a political force. It was an absolute disaster.

“Congress passed the Volstead Act on October 28, 1919, over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. The Volstead Act provided for the enforcement of Prohibition, including the creation of a special Prohibition unit of the Treasury Department. In its first six months, the unit destroyed thousands of illicit stills run by bootleggers. However, federal agents and police did little more than slow the flow of booze, and organized crime flourished in America. Large-scale bootleggers like Al Capone of Chicago, built criminal empires out of illegal distribution efforts, and federal and state governments lost billions in tax revenue,” states the website, www.history.com. The prohibition of sales of alcoholic drinks ended in the US on December 5, 1933.

The website, drugpolicy.org, says the “first anti-marijuana laws, in the Midwest and the Southwest in the 1910s and 20s, were directed at Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans. Today, Latino and especially black communities are still subject to wildly disproportionate drug enforcement and sentencing practices.”

The prohibition of marijuana, which has extended to all countries in the Americas, is slowly coming to an end. The first country in our part of the world, the part “discovered” by Christopher Columbus when he stumbled on an island in the Bahamas, the part of the world named after Amerigo Vespucci, who realized in 1501 that this part of the world wasn’t Asia, was Uruguay.

In the April 4, 2019 story, “Uruguay: The world’s marijuana pioneer,” Simon Maybin on BBC News’ www.bbc.com, says that country was the first in the world to legalize marijuana for recreational use, in 2013, but legal sales did not begin until 2017. The US has its tentacles everywhere, however, and they have bucked the Uruguayan government, using the banking system to apply the pressure.

“Uruguay might be a sovereign country,” Maybin says, “but it’s still affected by the US’s strict finance laws on controlled substances. Pharmacies are the only places allowed to sell recreational marijuana in Uruguay and — partly because of the restrictions facing banks — there are only 17 doing so in a country of 3.5 million people.”

Maybin says there are tight controls, with smokers having to register with a regulator and they can only buy 10 grams per week. “The regulator also controls how strong the marijuana is,” he says. “The level of THC — the psychoactive part of cannabis that gets you high — is limited and balanced with the level of CBD, another compound in the plant that’s said to have a calming effect.”

Canada recently legalized marijuana. In the October 17, 2018 story, “Marijuana is legal everywhere across Canada now”, Jesse Ferreras (Online Journalist Global News (globalnews.ca)) wrote: “Marijuana became legal in Canada at the stroke of midnight in Newfoundland, the time zone that is farthest to the east. From there, legal weed cascaded to each province and territory every hour — with the exception of Atlantic Canada, where marijuana was legalized a half hour after it was on the Rock.”

In Canada, anyone over 18 can have up to 30 grams of weed in their possession. Canadians can grow four weed plants from “licensed seed or seedlings”, and they can put weed in foods, but they are not to make it too concentrated, strong. The Canadians are serious about keeping youth away from the drug. Anyone who sells or gives weed to a youth, or uses a youth to commit a “cannabis-related offense” could get up to fourteen years in jail.

David Hillier, in the April 17, 2019 story, “These are the Countries Most Likely to Legalize Weed Next”, (www.vice.com) wrote that “Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela have legalized medical weed or decriminalized personal use to varying degrees”, and he predicts that Mexico will legalize it in 2019, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Chile will follow in 2025, and Venezuela will do so in 2029.

The state of Illinois became the 11th one in the USA to legalize weed for recreational use. Trevor Hughes, in the June 25, 2019 story, “Illinois approves legal weed, expunging criminal records for pot crimes” in USA Today, said that weed is still “illegal at the federal level, but since 2014, federal prosecutors have generally ignored marijuana sales in 10 states that legalized personal use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, Nevada, Vermont and Washington, along with the District of Columbia…

“…The Illinois law lets resident adults buy and possess up to 30 grams of cannabis ‘flower’, along with marijuana-infused foods known as edibles and small amounts of highly concentrated extracts. Nonresidents could buy half the amount.”

After AMLO (Andrés Manuel López Obrador) became president of Mexico in 2018, a bill was introduced by his interior secretary, Olga Sánchez Cordero, to legalize marijuana.

Staff of the Guardian newspaper (www.theguardian.com) (British), in the story “Mexico: president-elect Amlo’s party moves toward marijuana legalization”, wrote: “Mexico’s president-elect has submitted legislation to legalize the possession, public use, growth and sale of marijuana… (the bill) would allow every Mexican to grow up to 20 marijuana plants on private property and produce up to 17 ounces (480 grams) a year. Edible marijuana products would be prohibited.” Guardian staff noted, however, that legislation in Mexico moves slowly.

Mexico is moving slowly toward legalization, and when it does it is highly likely that we will follow our neighbor. It will be pointless for the USA to hold out as a country, with Canada to its north and Mexico to its south, having chosen the path of sanity. Indeed, 11 states in the USA have already relaxed the laws that control marijuana, and it is expected that many more will follow.

Prohibiting adults from using marijuana is and was a terrible law, with the only solid argument for enforcing it being that it was the most effective way to keep the product out of the hands of children. No country wants its citizens to use hallucinogenic drugs, but there are limitations when it involves basic rights. It never works when we pass laws that a well-informed people wouldn’t support.

A well-informed people will support some control of marijuana. People with firsthand experience have individual stories to tell; however the drug does not affect all of us the same way, so their wisdom is limited. We have to be selective about the studies we choose to guide us because there is no shortage of hidden agendas. There is sound information out there about marijuana, and this is evidenced by the types of control we see these countries we mentioned putting in place for the drug.

The draconian law, as it relates to marijuana use, went away when we decriminalized 10 grams. There are things we haven’t done, even though countries around us are showing the way. We must set and seriously enforce laws to protect young minds from marijuana. We must ensure that adulterated and highly concentrated marijuana products are not on the market. We must educate young adults about the full effects of marijuana use, so they know all the dangers the drug presents. Belize must do these things now.

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Deshawn Swasey

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