Churches complain about marijuana law Print
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Thursday, 02 November 2017 00:00

The National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB), a fracture group of Evangelicals, which was once a part of the Belize Association of Evangelical Churches, has decided that the  public must hear their objections to the amendment of the Misuse of Drugs Act. They take issue with the removal of penalties for the possession and private consumption of 10 grams or less of marijuana.

As readers know, the change in the law, which allows for that small but significant change, has been passed by the House of Representatives and by the Senate. It only requires the signature of assent from the Governor General for the law to take effect, and the Attorney General Ministry was hoping for that to take place on Wednesday, November 1.

However, one day before the law was to take effect, the leadership of the NEAB held a press conference to complain that from their perspective, the Government passed the law too quickly, and that the Government ignored all views that were in opposition of the law’s passage.

Pastor Scott Stirm, the Vice President of the association, told the press, “The National Evangelical Association of Belize presented to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, on May 20, 2016, letters, reports and the signatures of 225 national pastors and denominational overseers and leaders, expressing our strongest concern and objection to the initiative to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in Belize. That packet included scientific reports… stating the scientific facts of research concerning damage to the brain from daily marijuana use, especially to teenagers… It seems to us that the alarming scientific and real life data has fallen on deaf ears. It seems that the influence of the decriminalizing of marijuana committee has overridden all other voices.”

The press challenged them on the very late public outcry, and the leadership says that they expected that the Government would follow up on their packet to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. They allege that no follow up from Government’s side was done, and from their perspective, the legislation was rushed through, without their membership being able to properly digest it. It’s important to point out the entire nation knew that this legislation was coming. All sections of the press carried news reports on this piece of legislation when it was first tabled in the House in August. It was passed in October, providing 2 months for everyone to digest it and voice their concerns.

One major premise for the NEAB is that decriminalizing marijuana in small amounts is a pathway of destruction for the Belizean society.

Making that point were Pastor’s Scott Stirm and Lance Lewis. Pastor Lewis, the President of the NEAB, said, “We feel that legalizing, even in a small amount, is a step in the wrong direction, as it will now allow more persons to be involved in this trade…”

Meanwhile, Pastor Stirm said, “Yes, we fully support a compassionate, alternate track towards expungement, because God is a God of new beginnings, and that’s who we represent. But, do not lower the bar on consequences or else - as any parent can tell you, any time you remove consequences for a certain behavior, that behavior will increase.”

UDP Senator, Aldo Salazar, in the Senate debate on the law, aptly addressed that concern. He said, “The point is that all of a sudden, when this law passes, now everybody is going to run out and start to get high and start to drive their buses and drive their forklifts. Students are going to start to smoke, and go to school. Insurance premiums are going to raise, and that is really just a fallacious argument…  It presupposes that a law like this which decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana will result in a dramatic increase of marijuana use without any iota of evidence for that.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 November 2017 16:34