The Belize Medical and Dental Association (BMDA) has proposed that the Government of Belize cap individual’s recreational use for marijuana at 30 grams per month.
The BMDA, in their letter to the Government, recommended “that the maximum monthly allotment per registered Cannabis Program Identification Cardholder be 30 grams of cannabis Sativa. Equally, tourists should be allowed a monthly allotment of 30 grams of cannabis Sativa.”
This position challenges the current language of the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill, which currently reads: “A person issued a Cannabis Program Identification Card shall … not be in possession of more than twenty eight grammes of cannabis product at any one given time.”
On Thursday, neurologist, Dr. Joel Cervantes of the BMDA, clarified to The Reporter that the proposal to the Government was not as a way of trying to “clip anybody’s wings”, or neither is it trying to be closed-minded. Cervantes explained that it was a way of being responsible and also serve to ensure that marijuana users do not consume or abuse more than they should.
Cervantes said that after hearing about the proposal, members of the BMDA, specifically those that attend to marijuana users, asked their patients to calculate approximately how much marijuana they would usually consume per day. Following months of feedback and assessment, Cervantes said that the marijuana users reported using approximately one gram of marijuana per day, and so that is how the 30 grams proposal came about.
Returning to the Bill, the government’s proposed amendment did not stipulate whether there was any limit on how many times a person could visit the dispensary per day or even per month to make a purchase.
The BMDA also questioned GOB’s decision to grant Cannabis Licenses to persons 18 years of age and proposed that the age limit be changed to 21 instead. The BMDA argued at age 18 a person’s brain is still under development, and thus the introduction of Marijuana at that age can prove to be harmful to the human body on a whole but more specifically to the brain during this period of growth and maturity. The BMDA advised that at the age of 21 an individual can make a more informed decision to consume or not consume cannabis for leisurely use. That is shown in the fact that at this age things such as peer pressure do not play a very important role in the decision-making process for younger adults.
“We are just trying to safeguard the brain and body of our young people before it is too late. So that we can have less psychological and mental problems among our younger population,” explained Cervantes.
Under the amendment anyone 18 years and older and wish to possess cannabis for personal use would apply to the Commission for a Cannabis Program Identification Card. The card, which comes at a fee of $50 for Belizeans, if approved, would be valid for 24 months. Anyone who is not a citizen of Belize will need to pay $100, while their card will only be valid for a year. Additionally, successful cardholders will only be permitted to purchase their cannabis from the Central Nursery and will only be allowed to purchase two cannabis plants per household at one given time.
The BMDA has called on the GOB to provide them with the results of testing that have already been done on existing marijuana plants in Belize to show proof of their quality for both leisurely and medicinal use. The BMDA maintains that even as they await word from the GOB they are open to discussions with the ministry and even civil society stakeholders.
“We feel that this is being fast-tracked. We believe that there is a lot of information out there that is still not being shared with the public and our social partners. … We are concerned about the lack of information and education on the matter and this is what needs to be addressed, hopefully, before the legislation is passed. We don’t want the Government to rush this thing because of a need to create jobs and, then, we end up getting a national and international black eye because we failed to cross our T’s and dot our I’s,” ended Cervantes.