Is Weed Legal in Belize in 2024?

is weed legal in belize

Belize is known for its gorgeous beaches, Mayan ruins, and world-class scuba diving and snorkeling. This small country on the Caribbean coast of Central America relies heavily on tourism and has a very laidback vibe.

Given its location and dependence on foreign visitors, you may wonder what Belize’s laws and attitudes are regarding cannabis use. So is weed legal in Belize?

The short answer is: kind of. While a bill to fully legalize and regulate cannabis passed the legislature in 2022, opposition and bureaucracy have stalled those efforts. Currently, possession of small amounts of cannabis is decriminalized for personal use, but buying, selling, and growing marijuana remain illegal.

This article will break down the specifics on cannabis laws and trends in Belize – including the current legal status, background on decriminalization, failed legalization attempts, the availability of medical marijuana, cultural attitudes, and potential future developments.

What is the Current Legal Status of Cannabis in Belize?

As of 2024, the recreational use of cannabis is partially decriminalized in Belize. An amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act was passed in 2017 allowing adults to possess up to 10 grams of cannabis on private property without criminal penalty. This decriminalization was aimed at reducing fines and potential jail time for casual recreational marijuana use.

However, buying and selling cannabis remain illegal in Belize. The 2017 amendment created a contradiction – allowing private personal use but providing no legal way to obtain marijuana. There is also no legal framework for growing cannabis for consumption. And possession over 10 grams or any consumption in public can still result in criminal charges.

So in summary:

  • Adults can have up to 10 grams of cannabis in their home without penalty
  • Using cannabis on private property is permitted
  • But purchasing, selling, growing, and public use are still prohibited

This creates a partial decriminalization but stops short of fully legalizing recreational or medical cannabis.

Has Belize Tried to Fully Legalize Cannabis?

has belize tried to fully legalize cannabis

Yes. In March 2022, the Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Control and Licensing Bill successfully passed votes in both houses of Belize’s National Assembly. This would have created a full legal and regulatory framework allowing cultivation, processing, distribution and sale of cannabis for both medical and recreational markets.

The bill seemed poised to officially legalize marijuana in Belize after approval from legislators. However, opposition from religious organizations like the Council of Churches demanded the issue go to a public referendum first.

In response, the Government of Belize scheduled a referendum for September 2022 to let voters decide on cannabis legalization. But in July 2022, this referendum was abruptly cancelled. Rising costs estimated around $5 million and increasing pressure from tourism stakeholders contributed to the cancellation.

So in 2024, efforts to fully legalize and implement a recreational and medical cannabis industry in Belize remain stalled. After passing legislature, religious opposition blocked it from becoming law. For now, the partial decriminalization from 2017 remains in effect. But the failure of the 2022 legalization bill also means buying, selling, and growing marijuana continue to be prohibited.

What Led to Decriminalization of Personal Cannabis Use?

Prior to changes in 2017, Belize had a reputation for having relatively tolerant attitudes towards cannabis use – especially compared to some other countries in Central America. Surveys consistently find Belize has one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the region.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has published statistics listing Belize as the #18 country globally for marijuana use – surpassing rates in the Netherlands, Jamaica, and other regions often associated with cannabis culture. By their estimates, over 8.5% of Belize’s population actively uses marijuana.

In 2017, a modification to Belize’s Misuse of Drugs Act formally decriminalized private recreational use and possession of small amounts of cannabis by adults. This built upon the already relatively tolerant treatment of marijuana use.

Some of the main effects of the 2017 amendment signed into law were:

  • Reduced penalties for possession of 10 grams of cannabis or less to monetary fines instead of criminal charges
  • Allowed smoking cannabis on private property such as inside private homes or hotel rooms
  • Legalized possession of up to 10 grams for personal use by adults

This shift aimed to decrease convictions and incarcerations related to casual, recreational cannabis use that was already widespread. However, it stopped short of addressing the supply side by legalizing sales or commercial growing operations.

Can Tourists Legally Obtain and Use Cannabis in Belize?

can tourists legally obtain and use cannabis in belize

For visitors and tourists, it is important to understand that cannabis cannot be legally obtained in Belize currently. Since buying and selling remains against the law with stiff penalties if caught, tourists should not attempt to purchase marijuana. This applies even though possession itself has been decriminalized.

The police may show some tolerance for small amounts clearly intended for personal use only. But public consumption remains risky and hotels, vacation rentals, tour operators and other businesses are extremely unlikely to permit guests using marijuana on premises regardless of decriminalization.

For tourists in Belize hoping to use cannabis, the only truly safe and legal option is to bring a personal supply with you to remain on private property. Attempting to source or distribute locally is taking a big legal risk that is not condoned or recommended.

And while 10 grams or less is decriminalized for residents, it may still result at minimum in confiscation, fines, and strong lectures for visitors caught with cannabis trying to enter or transit the country. So consider any amount travel with carefully.

Does Belize Have a Medical Cannabis Program Currently?

As of late 2022 and into 2023, there is no formal medical marijuana program approved in Belize. The failed Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Control bill that stalled in mid-2022 would have legalized cannabis for medical uses. But its cancellation leaves no legal medical system in place.

However, hemp-derived CBD products are legal and available for purchase by residents and visitors alike. These products lacking THC do not produce intoxication but are used for various therapeutic purposes by many.

While full spectrum medical cannabis accessibility does not yet exist, CBD oils, lotions, and other hemp-sourced items can be obtained from local pharmacies and health stores across Belize. So alternative medicine fans visiting Belize have some options, just not full marijuana plant medicines.

If and when legalization ever moves forward, creating frameworks for using legal medical marijuana would likely be included given the worldwide shifts in this realm. But as of 2023, changes remain uncertain and medical use is still prohibited federally.

What About Teen and Adolescent Cannabis Use in Belize?

Another area of concern around cannabis laws in Belize is usage rates among teenagers – especially high school students. Surveys from 2015 found over 40% of students aged 15-17 reported trying marijuana, with 25% admitting to using it within the last 30 days.

The same student surveys highlighted friends using cannabis and perception of benefits rather than risks were the factors most strongly tied to personal marijuana use. Researchers warned that legalization efforts could further increase youth usage initiation rates.

So even while supporting decriminalization or legalization for consenting adults, many public health advocates believe firmer restrictions are still needed to discourage underage recreational marijuana use in Belize specifically. More study to properly balance youth protections with adult liberties remains warranted.

Could Legalization Efforts Resume in the Future?

Possibly! Despite the cancellation of the 2022 public referendum and stalling of the Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Control bill, sentiments among both politicians and the public indicate there is still strong support for fully legalizing cannabis across Belize.

In fact after the referendum was cancelled unexpectedly, many felt blindsided and felt they were not given the voice on this issue as promised. Comments from government officials like Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa continue signalling intentions for “when marijuana becomes legalized”.

Clearly tensions around religious groups and big tourism investors opposing cannabis remain strong. These factors should not be dismissed given the outsized role tourism plays in Belize’s small economy.

However, leaders also cite economic potential from establishing a domestic hemp and marijuana industry. Tax revenues and jobs from legalized cannabis could benefit the country in theory. Belize also has a strong agricultural workforce and suitable climate to support production.

Public sentiment leans towards legalizing and properly regulating cannabis for harm reduction over leaving as fully criminal. Even after recent setbacks, many expect Belize may eventually reattempt creating a legalized framework in coming years. But the path to get there still faces substantial legislative and social obstacles for the time being.

Conclusion: Current Cannabis Laws in Belize Remain Contradictory

In summary – no, marijuana is not fully legalized in Belize as of 2024. While a legalization bill briefly seemed on track before opposition stalled it, all buying, selling, and growing of cannabis continues to be prohibited federally. Police still actively seek and seize large marijuana crops and operations.

However, possession and private personal use of small amounts of marijuana is decriminalized. Adults can have up to 10 grams for recreational consumption without risking jail or steep fines. Belize has also typically been more tolerant of cannabis use relative to neighboring countries.

But these partial allowances also create paradoxes. While use itself is partially permitted, there remain no legal means to obtain cannabis. And public consumption or handling larger amounts still risk stiff penalties. So tourists especially should refrain from attempting to source marijuana locally.

With (failed) legalization efforts, changing attitudes, high prior usage rates, an existing agriculture industry, and economic incentives – many feel Belize legalizing cannabis fully is not a matter of if but when. But religious opposition and influence of more conservative foreign investors continues blocking progressive legislative shifts for now.

The story of cannabis in Belize resembles growing pains across many nations balancing tensions between individual freedoms, health protections, business interests, and morality views. How these competing needs get balanced through good policy remains a complex work in progress. But the coming years promise continued social and political debates on this issue in Belize and beyond.

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