Features — 19 April 2016 — by Micah Goodin
“Legalize it, don’t  criticize it.”

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Apr. 15. 2016–It was the late great Peter Tosh, himself who said, “Legalize it, don’t criticize it.”

The Social Security Board today held the final round of its 2016 debate competition which featured a hotly contested debate between Ecumenical Junior College (EJC), from the Stann Creek District, and the Corozal Junior College (CJC), from the Corozal District, on the topic, “The Criminal Legislation of marijuana has been a major discussion in many countries. Do you believe that marijuana should be legalized in Belize?”

Ecumenical Junior College (EJC) argued in the affirmative and Corozal Junior College (CJC) argued in the negative.

Coincidentally, today marks one year since Jamaica, our sister country, has enacted legislation in the decriminalization of marijuana.

Opening statements from Ecumenical Junior College highlighted the fact that around 3.8% of the Earth’s population use marijuana. They also stated the many medicinal and alternative uses of marijuana for which Belize can reap sweet financial gains instead of criminalizing the common man for a stick of weed.

In their opening statements, the students representing Corozal Junior College highlighted that many countries which legalized marijuana are now in a state of regret. They also stated the personal and social risks of legalizing marijuana and the already long list of available substances that impair normal body activities.

“Discussion with marijuana dealers in Belize reveals a day-sale value of $1,500 at times; that’s the month’s salary of a teacher at pay scale 14,” remarked Pearla Martinez of Ecumenical Junior College in her first argument.

“Do we really want to be a part of the generation of Belizeans who sacrifice their citizens and children for an industry that isn’t even guaranteed to succeed? No!” remarked Mikhail Gilharry of Corozal Junior College.

“In a study we conducted in Dangriga, 65% of respondents supported the legalization of marijuana for its financial and medicinal benefits,” said Pearla Martinez of EJC.

Her colleague and teammate, Kenroy Elijio added that, “Marijuana is not lethal. In order for it to be lethal, an individual has to smoke 1,500 pounds of weed in fifteen minutes. Eating ten raw potatoes is in fact more lethal.”

“Belize is a Third World country and if we can’t even sustain the papaya industry, how can we sustain a brand new industry?” remarked Hanna Lee of Corozal Junior College, who further stated that, “hopping on the legalization bandwagon might seem enticing … but we aren’t here to apply blindfolds of sensationalism.”

EJC’s Kenroy Elijio rebutted, “We are not crazy we will not just put marijuana in place without the proper structure and the authority to manage it.”

His EJC colleague, Pearla Martinez, added that if marijuana is legalized, Belize will be able to tap into immense international funding for research on drug abuse from organizations such as the National Institute for Drug Abuse in the United States.

“Let us make use of this herb and endeavor in an investment that will indeed be beneficial to our developing nation,” added Elijio.

In closing the affirmative, EJC coherently summed up its argument to reflect that the benefits of marijuana legalization, such as the reduction of unemployment and poverty, reduction of incarceration, attraction of foreign investment, and its medicinal uses, far outweigh its criminalization.

“It is time for our Belizean children to benefit from the taxes and regulations of the marijuana industry rather than it been in the hands of the criminals, untaxed and unaccounted for,” the EJC students stated.

“Our country’s police should stop wasting time and effort enforcing antiquated laws, banishing marijuana and instead take those resources and use them on more serious crimes such as murder, abduction and rape…,” they went on to say.

“Why continue clogging our judicial system with a petty crime such as marijuana possession?,” asked Kenroy Elijio of EJC, who then wrapped up with his personal rendition of Reggae superstar Richie Spice’s popular “Marijuana pon the corner” song.

Representing the opposing view, CJC closed by emphasizing that we cannot become a society deeply motivated by greed. They also emphasized that we lack the resources to regulate such a “radical and risky industry.”

Finally, CJC reiterated that, “There is no pot of gold at the end of a joint.”

However, at the end of today’s debate, the Ecumenical Junior College from the District of Stann Creek emerged victorious, while the Corozal Junior College is able to smile proudly for finishing, Second Place Nationally.

Kenroy Elijio, EJC arts and economics student, was awarded Outstanding Debater among all 2016 participants.

Elijio, who spoke with Amandala with tears of joy in his eyes, said he will use his recently awarded open scholarship to pursue undergraduate studies in criminal justice at Galen University.

The Government of Belize is yet to produce the necessary amendments to discontinue the incarceration of persons found in possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. Cabinet had passed recommendations in February of this year for such amendments to be drafted by the office of the Attorney General.

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