The government of Belize is looking into the possibility of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana possession in an effort to clear up space in the Central American country's overcrowded jails.
The country's government released a press release July 16 announcing it had formed a committee headed by a former national police chief to review the issue.
Belize is not the first Central American country to seek alternatives to dealing with drug use and drug trafficking, Stop The Drug War reports.
Earlier this year, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina told AlJazeera that the regional war against drug use and drug trafficking was failing and new research and a new approach were required.
The issue was discussed at great length at the Summit of the Americas in April in Cartagena, Colombia. According to CNN, US President Barack Obama was open to many of the ideas brought forth at the summit, but he was not open to legalizing drugs. He said legalizing drugs in the US was not a valid option.
More recently, Uruguay announced plans to allow state-controlled marijuana sales. Under the new law, only the government could sell marijuana to registered adults BBC News reports.
Now, Belize joins the list of countries seeking change. Currently, the country considers marijuana possession of less than 60 grams a criminal defense, Business Week reports. The offense is punishable by $50,000 Belize dollars (or $26,000 US dollars), and up to 3 years in prison.
Caribbean 360 reports that rather than punish those possessing cannabis, the government will regulate the amount of marijuana a person may possess. Those possessing marijuana will not go to jail, so that funds may instead be used for drug education.
According to the press release, The initiative is not designed to totally legalize the possession of marijuana, but rather legalize the possession of drug in small amounts. The committee believes that drug education is much more sensible and effective than imprisonment. The idea behind the proposal is simply to reduce and regulate.