The argument for the legalization of marijuana in Belize. Written by Aria Lightfoot

Why legalize Belize?

The evidence is growing and supporting the medicinal properties of marijuana. I predict that one day soon there will be an inevitable international decriminalization or outright legalization of marijuana.

Belize needs to recognize the trends and move from a reactive policy making society to a proactive and anticipatory society. With the Sugar Industry in turmoil and our heavy dependence on the industry for foreign exchange and money, marijuana exportation may prove to be an even more lucrative business.

Additionally, our criminal laws seems to be largely non-functioning, unenforced or outdated in many cases and not designed for 21st century problems. The new criminal drug laws are poorly drafted, poorly investigated and poorly enforced. Many of the laws piggyback off old colonial justice, where the purpose then was to maintain the status quo and wealth of the nobles and keep the proletariat in compliance.

The prosecutorial system in Belize is a complete disgrace and there seems no current plans to address it. When I prosecuted cases, I always wondered why Belize spent hundreds of man hours, resources and effort chasing down our youths and criminalizing them for essentially a stick of weed and clogging our justice system with cases of mostly young black men;   many  who are first introduced to high level criminals in an over populated prison. Many of these young men who are arrested for marijuana are unable to make bail and are housed with convicted murders, rapists, thieves and so on.

Belize seems to take its crime-fighting cue from the U.S.; however, the United States is definitely not a leader in fighting crime effectively. Belize has imported many of the U.S. failed police state policies. Currently the Police Forces throughout the United States are under public scrutiny for abuses of human rights and excessive force especially against minority populations. The U.S. also has one of the worst incarceration rates in the world on par with the “axis of evil” countries. The U.S. Federal drug laws and enforcement are oppressive. Many argue that the rise of private prisons is part of the problem. These corporate prisons lobby Congress to keep drugs laws in place so as to keep prisons filled. Every new prisoner equals more money.

In October of 2014, Belize destroyed 54 million Belize dollars worth of a marijuana plantation with the help of the U.S. embassy. (One of many like operations) The hypocrisy of the event cannot escape the causal observer. Colorado around the same time was making about 25 million US dollars (50 million Belize dollars) worth of taxes based on the sale of marijuana. The U.S. ambassador himself is from a state where medical marijuana is legal.

Last year Canada offered Jamaica a lucrative deal. Legalize marijuana and sell it to Canada. Canada has a 1.3 Billion dollar industry and the license growers want to grow marijuana in Jamaica. The idea to legalize marijuana seems to have been tabled by Belize’s policy makers but I wonder how Belize will react when the U.S. eventually abandon this specific drug fight, legalize marijuana and then turn out to be the biggest producer, exporter and earner in marijuana sales?  Will Belize be compensated for years of an appeasement drug policy that criminalized a good portion of its youths?

What could Belize gain by marijuana legalization?

  1. Access to a growing and newly legal multi-billion dollar industry.
  2. Marijuana Tourism
  3. Less Criminals
  4. Access of billions in research money
  5. Cash Cow industry with low overhead costs
  6. Less Criminals
  7. Police officers who will redirect resources on other types of investigations
  8. Less dependency as a nation
  9. Less Criminals
  10. Financial Freedom

A Brief History of Marijuana – criminalization and decriminalization

Marijuana has existed long before modern society and was known by numerous names such as cannabis, hemp, weed, trees and more. Back in 2700 B.C., the father of Chinese medicine Shen Nung recognized Marijuana for its healing properties along with two other mainstay Chinese herbs – ginseng and ephedra.

In 1200 B.C. the Egyptian reportedly used cannabis for the treatment of inflammation and glaucoma. This was evidenced by pollen found in mummies.

600 B.C. Indians are said to use marijuana for leprosy and by

1 A.D. the Chinese had about 100 medicinal uses for cannabis. The uses continued throughout world history for the uses of depression, asthma, loss of appetite, neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, dysentery, alcoholism, opiate addiction, anthrax, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, insanity, excessive menstrual bleeding, uterine bleeding, impotence, ulcers etc. and of course recreational smoking.

In 1906 President Roosevelt passed the first Food and Drug Act aimed to label drugs and get pre-approval before market uses.

By 1911, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to prohibit marijuana that coincided with moral laws prohibiting the uses of alcohol, prostitution, gambling and oral sex.

By 1927 10 other states had followed suit in prohibiting marijuana. Keep in mind that during that era marijuana was also an international produced and imported product from India and was in direct competition with the Cotton industry via Hemp. Hemp was said to be a better material than cotton for making clothing and paper.

In 1913 the US government started to domestically grow marijuana and in

1918 was growing 60,000 pounds of marijuana annually.

On Feb 19, 1925, the League of Nations signed a multinational treaty adding cannabis to the narcotics list where use were to be limited to scientific only research. All imports and exports would be prohibited.

In 1928 the U.K added it to its Dangerous Drugs Act and what affected the U.K affected her colonies such as Belize.

During the years 1930 – 1937 via adamant lobbying of congress, movies and propaganda, marijuana was framed as a drug that caused insanity and “pushed people to commit horrendous acts of criminality.”

In 1937 the first man, Samuel Caldwell was arrested and charged for selling marijuana and was sentenced to four years in prison and $1000.00 fine.

In 1938 Canada prohibits cultivation of marijuana but still allows some prescription use.

In 1961 the U.N Convention on Narcotic Drugs establishes Article 49 calling on participating nations to adopt measures to prevent the use and trade of marijuana outside of medicinal and scientific purposes.

In 1970 the U.S Congress passed an Act that classified marijuana as a drug with no accepted medical uses. The U.K. passes a similar Act and

In 1971 President Nixon ignored the Shafer commission recommendation to decriminalize marijuana. Nixon went further and declared a war on drugs. A failed policy by all evidence today.

The DEA was established in 1973 and in 1974 the National Institute on Drug Abuse begin growing marijuana for research purposes via the University of Mississippi.

On November 24, 1976, in U.S. v Randall, the US Supreme Court ruled that Randall use of Marijuana for glaucoma constituted a medical necessity and was the first American after prohibition to have access to marijuana for a medical purpose.

In 1976 the Netherlands decriminalized marijuana

Between 1980-today, the US has been very inconsistent with its policy on marijuana. Some states have recognized the medicinal purposes since 1978 with New Mexico passing laws supporting medicinal uses while simultaneously the Federal government have become stringent in their classification and enforcement of prohibition.


Today 25 U.S. States have legalized some version of marijuana use with some legalizing all uses of marijuana even as the Federal government threatens loss of federal funding. Canada has decriminalized while the U.K. has become more stringent. The top five lobbyists in the United States who want to keep marijuana illegal are

  1. The police union
  2. The private corporate prisons
  3. Pharmaceutical companies
  4. Alcohol and Beer Companies
  5. Prison Guard Unions

Below was a typical poster used to frame marijuana as an immoral drug:

marijuana ads