Belize Mulls Decriminalizing Marijuana

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Above: Parliament in Belmopan

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Belize’s Ministry of National Security has appointed a committee to evaluate and make proposals for the decriminalization of small portions of marijuana.

The move, which was announced this week, was driven by “increasing evidence that the current legislation clutters the courts and the prison with primarily a marginalized segment of our population,” the government said in a statement.

The committee said that it recognized that the proposal was “a sensitive issue,” and encouraged interested groups and individuals to express their views on the matter.

Belize’s current laws treat the possession of under 60 grams of marijuana as a criminal offence, punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and/or up to three years imprisonment.

The decriminalization proposal would involve up to 10 grams of marijuana, which would then be subject to fines, mandatory drug education and no imprisonment.

Also proposed would be the provision that no criminal record would be kept in the first instance, and portions of the penalty be reserved for drug education.

The committee emphasized that the proposal was “not to legalize the offence, thereby purging it of all its penalties,” however.

“It is merely to reduce and regulate,” the committee said. “This is further supported by international trends towards decriminalization.”

The news follows a proposal by another Central American country, Guatemala, for the legalization of drugs in a bid to combat trafficking.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has said that doing so would help reduce the increasing violence due to the trade in illicit narcotics.