Introduction: The Belize Medical and Dental Association (BMDA) is a responsible organization in civil society that advocates for the proper implementation and practice of healthcare policies in Belize.
The BMDA believes that the legalization and regulation of Marijuana (Cannabis products) can have both positive and negative impacts on our Belizean society and the development of our country.
“The Belize Medical and Dental Association of Belize (BMDA) is an organization that advocates for physicians in the country of Belize. We were established in 1981 and have over 200 members which is headed by an executive. The Belize Medical and Dental Association of Belize (BMDA) hosts symposiums and congresses which allows physicians to become more knowledgeable in the Health Care system. Our goal is to improve the healthcare for the people of Belize through representation of doctors and patients. We help defend and promote the interests of all our senior and junior physicians.”
A BMDA Cannabis Committee comprising key members of the working executive and expert senior members from our ranks was formed in 2021 to address this national issue.
Basis for an Official Position:
Among our membership there are health professionals who have the theoretical and practical expertise in dealing with marijuana products from a medicinal and drug-abuse perspective.
These include experts in the mental health and neurological sciences who are already involved in the day-to-day interaction with patients and persons of our Belizean society who consume existing marijuana products for diverse purposes.
Results of the BMDA’s Physician survey on the legalization/regularization of Marijuana (2021):
Less than 25% agree with the legalization of Marijuana (Cannabis products) for recreational purposes with the actual information made available by the Government of Belize.
Approximately 75% agree that the legalization of Marijuana (Cannabis products) for medicinal purposes could eventually be beneficial if proper scientific data and guidelines are followed.
Approximately 95% believe our members have the major role to play in educating our population regarding the effects of Marijuana and Cannabis products.
The BMDA’s position on the Regularization/Legalization of Marijuana (Cannabis products): General Position:
The BMDA WILL NOT oppose the Government of Belize’s efforts in creating new economic opportunities for our Belizean populace through the efforts of the Ministry of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries.
The BMDA opines that before the proposed amendments for the “MISUSE OF DRUGS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2021” be passed and enacted into law, the Government of Belize embark on an open and serious public campaign to educate the Belizean society at large on the projected benefits of these amendments.
The BMDA DOES NOT SUPPORT all the proposed amendments for the “MISUSE OF DRUGS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2021”.
The proposed amendments for the “MISUSE OF DRUGS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2021” proposes the creation of the “Industrial Hemp and Cannabis Control Commission”. The BMDA proposes this be changed to the “Recreational Cannabis Control Commission” or the “Cannabis Control Commission for Leisurely Use”.
Industrial Hemp is a Cannabis plant that contains 0.3% or less of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is a psychoactive ingredient). Industrial Hemp cannot in any of its forms be used for recreational/leisurely purposes as the amount of THC cannot make the user “high”. Industrial Hemp does not produce any form of a narcotic that the proposed Commission would have to oversee or regulate. Hence, the Commission would have no need to oversee the Industrial Hemp Industry. This means that the oversight of Industrial Hemp development and production should be entirely separated from regulation under any “MISUSE OF DRUGS” BILL OR AMENDMENT TO ANY EXISTING BILL. An entirely different oversight body with corresponding [legislation] and laws (BILLS) needs to be developed. This is an entirely different “New Growth” Industry.
The BMDA proposes this change in the name of the Commission as this would clearly support this “New Growth Industry” which is being created to focus on producing a quality graded marijuana (THC) product for leisurely use for tourists visiting our country and for Belizeans and residents of Belize who want to consume leisurely.
2. The BMDA DOES NOT support the view that products from Cannabis sativa authorized for leisurely use should be freely promoted as equally having medicinal value.
THC is NOT innocuous and the free decision to use THC products must be a responsible decision from the leisurely user.
“Recreational (for leisure) marijuana” (cannabis sativa) contains higher levels of THC than “medicinal marijuana” as the objective in leisurely use is to get “high”. THC in certain very specific circumstances may be applied for medicinal purposes in combination with other cannabinoids which are non-psychoactive. Whenever Belize, in the future, moves to the implementation of Cannabis products for medicinal use this must be supervised by in-country physicians knowledgeable and certified in the science of medicinal cannabis.
The BMDA WILL NOT endorse nor support the view that a line of legally grown/cultivated/manufactured cannabis products for leisurely (recreational) use should be promoted for medicinal use by this Industry.
3. The BMDA recommends that the cannabis sativa strain that will be grown for legal recreational (leisurely) use be at a maximum concentration of 15% THC content. This SHOULD NOT be recommended for medicinal use. The BMDA will advise on the maximum concentration of THC content when our nation responsibly develops the industry for the use of Cannabis sativa for medicinal purposes.
4. The BMDA recommends that the maximum monthly allotment per registered Cannabis Program Identification Card holder user (Belizean nationals and legal residents) be 30 grams of cannabis sativa. Equally tourists should be allowed a monthly allotment of 30 grams of cannabis sativa.
5. The BMDA advises for all Cannabis Program Identification Card holders who are Belizean nationals or residents of Belize to be entered into a digital National Registry Program and for each card holder to undergo a baseline pre-authorization medical exam by licensed physicians in Belize. The justification for this lies in that health data does not exist for present consumers of cannabis. Cannabis for leisurely use IS NOT innocuous to the human body, independently of the manufacturing or cultivation methods employed. The BMDA believes that this pre-authorization medical exam will provide important public health data for future health policies of national impact. The BMDA recommends the following as part of a pre-authorization medical exam for Belizean nationals and residents of Belize only:
Laboratory tests (Complete Blood Count, Liver function Tests, Kidney Function Tests, Urinalysis)
Baseline Physical/Mental Health evaluation
6. The BMDA FULLY SUPPORTS that the legal age for access to these products be age 21 years instead of age 18 years.
At age 21 years, rather than age 18 years, there is a higher possibility that the individual can make an informed decision to consume or not consume cannabis for leisurely use. This is because peer pressure does play a very important role in decision making especially in younger adults.
The brain develops until approximately age 25 years. Scientific evidence points to marijuana consumption generally being harmful to the human body on a whole but specifically to the brain in this period of growth and maturity.
7. The BMDA RECOMMENDS that at least 2 of the members of the “Commission” be appointed from the BMDA. The Minister on the advice of our BMDA Executive could appoint “narcotics experts” from within the BMDA (primarily experts in the Neurosciences) who understand the impact of marijuana products on the human mind and body.
8. The BMDA SUPPORTS the creation of a “NATIONAL THC TESTING PROGRAM” as part of a broader screening panel to be implemented with the rolling out of leisurely marijuana (cannabis) products to the public domain. This would serve to measure THC levels in persons purportedly responsible for traffic accidents and serious crimes while intoxicated.
At present THC levels measured in blood, urine, saliva, hair and using breathalyzers detects evidence of marijuana use. This coupled with evaluations from trained drug recognition experts (law enforcement/emergency/medical personnel) can identify those under acute THC intoxication.
Central and local government departments should consider recreational marijuana usage off-limits to those in the transportation and other safety- and security-sensitive industries, whether under public or private management control.
9. The BMDA expresses a serious concern that “Current Good Manufacturing Practices” once legislated, really be adhered to as experience in other countries has shown that poor legislation, oversight, policing, and corrective measures can lead to negative financial, environmental, and societal issues.
10. The BMDA stands ready to assist the Government of Belize in the creation of future national policies for Cannabis and Cannabinoids for Medicinal Purposes when this occasion should arise. The BMDA membership believes there is a place for the eventual legalization of cannabis products for medicinal purposes.
The BMDA reminds the Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries that as agreed at our meeting on the 6th of September 2021, the “BMDA Cannabis Committee” is still awaiting the sharing of the data of “testing done already on existing marijuana plants in Belize to show us proof of their poor quality both for leisurely and medicinal use.” We have not received any such information to date. The foreign consultant also expressed his commitment to providing us with other “scientific evidence” to support the content of his presentation to the “BMDA Cannabis Committee”. We humbly request this information be made available to us so we can responsibly integrate this information to educate our Belizean Society before our government enacts the proposed amendments into law.