After recent calls by opposition leader John Briceño to legalize cannabis in Belize were rejected, Prime Minister Dean Barrow suggested the country should look towards hemp production instead. The call for cannabis reform follows the decriminalization of cannabis possession for 10 grams or less in April 2017.
While hemp is legal in the Central American nation, there are currently no regulations in place. Speaking to local media, Prime Minister Barrow declared “We are well on the way to creating just such an industry with the Ministry of Agriculture meeting with, and preparing farmers and the Attorney General drafting the necessary legislation, using Canadian and Australian models.”
Support at official level
After Briceño’s call for reform, it emerged that the Belize Health Minister Pablo Marin had expressed his support for cannabis and hemp reforms back in February 2016. A letter he wrote in support of a project mooted by local businessmen to produce cannabis for medical purposes was highlighted in the media.
Another letter from October 2017 reveals the Health Ministers’ support for the development of hemp production in the Stann Creek District of Belize. Marin outlines the four conditions needed for his support: That the product is exported to a company with relevant state licenses; that the processing plant and the culture of the hemp plant be in accordance with local laws; that the land is fenced; and that the company involved complies with the laws of Belize.
Earlier this year, Minister of Trade, Investment and Commerce Tracey Taeger-Panton revealed the government is moving ahead with plans to produce hemp. While in April, it was announced that the Belize government was planning to sign trade agreements with its regional neighbors to invest in emerging industries such as hemp.
With the recent announcement that the Attorney General is preparing the necessary legislation, many hemp farmers and enthusiasts are looking forward to the day they can grow the crop freely. Among those are the Industrial Hemp Education and Research Association (IHERA) of Belize. It’s an initiative established by activists to promote hemp education and research in the country.
Waiting for regulations
“The biggest problem we face is the fact that people are mixing industrial hemp with recreational hemp when the two are distinctly different in terms of chemistry and how they are cultivated,” Mary Karin of IHERA told HempToday
Karin says that while hemp is legal in Belize they are still waiting for the government to set the regulations and also to determine which varieties will thrive in the region. “We are moving forward and hopefully in the near future many farmers in Belize will be growing industrial hemp toward a healthier and wealthier Belize,” Karin said. – Brian Houlihan