Tonight, Belize is one step close to de -criminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill was first tabled in the House of Representatives and mid-August and today it was presented for debate and passage. There was support on both sides of the house. Home Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington gave the second reading of the historic piece of legislation:..
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Home Affairs
"To decriminalized the possession of Cannabis in amounts not exceeding 10 grams, to provide for the possession of monetary and non-recordable penalties for the possession of Cannabis in such amounts occurring on school premises in specified circumstances to decriminalized the smoking of cannabis on private premises and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto."
Hon. John Briceno, Leader of the Opposition
"I think it would be naive for us on this side of the honorable house to feel that smoking weed is not prevalent in our society. Probably most of us in the room had one time probably take a little smoke."
"Nonetheless, the Opposition will support the amendments to the misuse of drug act, for we strongly believe that the time has come, has long pass when we should be locking up people, especially young people, for smoking a stick of weed."
"As for me, my difficulty with the current legislation is that it stops at decriminalization. I feel that it would been better if we had done all the studies and made the preparations to go even further and move towards the legalization of marijuana."
"While I respect the opinion of those who are against this, I believe that there are numerous benefits to legalizing the use of marijuana in certain small quantities. Who knows, one day maybe we could allow the Prime Minister - he has a lot of pain in the house - that he could take a little smoke to ease the pain. Or, hold on member from Mesopotamia, that they allow some of the members in here to take a little smoke before they come so that they could behave good and not behaving bad in the house."
"I know we are taking it as light matter, but it is something serious and I think that it is something whose time has come."
Hon. Francis Fonseca
"This bill does not legalize marijuana, first of all. That is not an issue here at all and nobody at all is promoting or advocating the smoking of marijuana. That is not the purpose of the bill. That is not the intention of the bill. That is not the subject of the bill. Nobody is promoting the smoking of marijuana."
Hon. Elodio Aragon, Minister of State - Home Affairs
"I just want to make it clear that this amendment to the misuse of drugs act is the mere possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana will no longer be a crime. In other words it will no longer be a criminal offence. Unless possession occurs on the premises of a school or other educational institution. Farther more it remains a criminal offence to be in possession of over 10 grams of marijuana. Offenders can be arrested, charged, tried in court and if found guilty, sentenced to a fine or to imprisonment or both. The conviction will also be recorded on that person's criminal act. This is decriminalization of marijuana. It's not a wide spread open use of marijuana."
"In terms of smoking of marijuana - where the amount in possession is more than 10 grams will no longer be a crime. Where it is done in the person's own home or other specified accommodation with the owners/operators permission. A hotel lodging or other private sleeping accommodation for paying guests which also allows lawful smoking to be carried out. In every case smoking of marijuana would still be govern by the rules on possession of marijuana referred to what I have just mentioned. Smoking of marijuana anywhere else is illegal. It will also assist in the reduction of persons at our prisons and it will also assist the entire criminal justice system ranging from the police to prisons and it would in effect create a cost saving in regards to arresting, sentencing and imprisonment which we all know comes with a budgetary resources that has to be allocated to ensure that these things be carried out. But most important I think this act will also allow for law enforcement personnel and the ministry to focus and concentrate more on the serious crimes that are affecting and plaguing our societies and our communities across this country and like the leader of the opposition said he would have wanted to see the whole legalization of marijuana, but I believe that it is prudent that we as a responsible government take this one step at a time as we progress to ensure that we always make the right decision that will be a betterment for our nation. Thank you."
So the bill has been passed in the house with bi partisan support. But, we stress, it is not yet law. The Senate still has to pass it and then the Governor General has to give his assent.