BELMOPAN, Belize: The Minister of National Security in this country has appointed a committee to evaluate and make proposals for the decriminalization of the possession of small quantities of Cannabis Sativa (marijuana/weed).
In this context, “decriminalization” means that the treatment of the infraction will be adjusted so that most of the penalties are removed or reduced. The offence will then be subject to regulation, which will allow for the implementation of probationary measures.
It is also proposed that no criminal record be kept in the first instance and that portions of the penalty be reserved for drug education.
Current legislation in Belize treats the possession of under 60 grams of marijuana as a criminal offence and is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and/or up to three years imprisonment.
The proposal under consideration is to decriminalize the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, which will then be subject to fines and mandatory drug education with no imprisonment.
The initiative is said to be driven by increasing evidence that the current legislation clutters the court and the prison systems with primarily a marginalized segment of the population. The added impact of a permanent criminal record further disadvantages this already marginalized group as it establishes a barrier against meaningful employment.
The committee emphasized that the proposal is not to legalize the offence thereby purging it of all its penalties, but is merely to reduce and regulate. According to the committee, this is further supported by international trends towards decriminalization.