In the context of this exercise, “decriminalisation” means that the treatment of the infraction will be adjusted so that most of the penalties are removed or reduced. The offence will then be subject to regulation, which will allow for the implementation of probationary measures.
It is also proposed that no criminal record be kept in the first instance, and that portions of the penalty be reserved for drug education.
Current legislation in Belize treats the possession of under 60 grams of marijuana as a criminal offence and is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and/or up to three years imprisonment.
The proposal under consideration is to decriminalise the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana, which will then be subject to fines and mandatory drug education with no imprisonment.
The initiative is said to be driven by increasing evidence that the current legislation clutters the courts and the prison with primarily a marginalised segment of the population. The added impact of a permanent criminal record further disadvantages this already marginalised group as it establishes a barrier against meaningful employment.
The committee emphasised that the proposal is not to legalize the offence thereby purging it of all its penalties, but is merely to reduce and regulate. This is further supported by international trends towards decriminalisation, according to the committee.