Belize churches want popular referendum on marijuana bill

A pastor in Belize said several religious bodies had written to Prime Minister John Briceño asking for a “popular referendum” to be held before the amendment to existing legislation allowing for the decriminalization of marijuana is passed.

Possession or use of ten grams or less on private premises was decriminalized in November 2017 and Cabinet has already given its approval to introduce revised legislation which will provide for the control and licensing of the cannabis industry and to establish the necessary legislative framework to govern and regulate the cultivation, processing, distribution and delivery of cannabis products intended for adult use only.

Under the Referendum Act, Chapter 10 of the Laws of Belize, a referendum can be called when a petition receives the signatures of ten percent of the voting population, or 18,669 votes in this case as it stands. currently.

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Pastor Louis Wade of the Belmopan Church of the Nazarene said that despite churches having ‘pleaded, pleaded (and) lobbied’, they have so far failed to get the government to reconsider its position .

He said the churches belonging to the Evangelical Association of Belize Churches (NEAB), along with the Council of Churches, “have agreed together that since the government does not want to hold a referendum to hear the opinion of the people on the question, then the church call a referendum.

“Only once in the history of our country have we called a referendum, and if you remember, that was during the offshore drilling dispute, when 18,000 people signed a petition for the government to call a referendum.”

Pastor Wade said the church is engaged and “we have been looking and getting a very broad group of organizations, a broad coalition that is partnering with the church.

Late last month, Roman Catholic priest Father John Robinson released a pre-recorded statement warning that legalizing the cultivation, use and sale of marijuana is akin to “the production and trafficking drug smugglers”.

The priest predicts that the passage of the legislation “will negatively affect Belize in the near future” and that “this bill would legalize the growth, production, distribution and sale of marijuana throughout the country of Belize.”

“People have asked if the Catholic Church has a position on this bill. The answer is yes, and the position can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is the official teaching of the Church. I quote: “The use of drugs inflicts very serious damage to human health and life. Their use, except for strictly therapeutic purposes, is a grave offence,” said Father Robinson.

“Legalizing marijuana doesn’t change the immorality of drug use. What is immoral harms both the person and the society. What the legalization of marijuana will do is create a contradiction between the law of God and the law of man, increasing its use throughout the country, including among young people. It will lower the moral standards of the country; this will increase violence throughout Belize.

“It will impact tourism, making Belize less family-friendly. The black market will actually expand and other drugs will be more plentiful and available. This will increase corruption in government. This will increase dependencies. This will lead to health complications for many Belizean users,” Father Robinson said.

CMC/

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