Episode 21 - The Government of Belize appears to be moving full steam ahead to legalize marijuana and establish a commercial cannabis industry. Last month the Minister responsible even introduced the media to his very own foreign cannabis consultant! So who is this "weed guy" and why is nobody asking the right questions?
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Brent Toombs 0:23
Belize now has a weed guy. But is he an economic Savior? Or just another snake oil salesman?
You're listening to Brent's Two Cents the semi serious thoughts of a guy in Belize. And now here's the host of this podcast from somewhere in Belize City, Brent Toombs.
Brent Toombs 1:25
(laughing) Welcome to the podcast for the week of January the 18th. Okay, that clip from Ted 2 will make sense, I promise. But
it's one of my favorite movies. Well, that and Ted 1. And I promise you, I haven't been smoking weed. But we're going to talk about it
on this episode of the podcast. First, let me say thanks to everyone who continued to download archived episodes while I was on hiatus, and especially loads all my new UDP listeners who have suddenly reached out to tell me how much they now enjoy my podcast.
It's amazing what a difference in government will make to one's perspective on whether or not they like this podcast.
Well, speaking of politics, a few days after the PUP victory on November, the 11th, Prime Minister Briceno announced his new cabinet. And it wasn't just the names of the ministers that were new. A few ministries also received a makeover in title. One ministry in particular, formerly known as national security reverted back to its previous alias of Ministry of Home Affairs. But now with the addition of new growth industries. Now that did seem to be an odd combination. The ministry for law enforcement and national defense was now being tasked with the responsibility for growing new industries, but did not make more sense for new growth industries to be included in the portfolio's of the ministers responsible for economic development or enterprise. Well, it turns out that the new growth industry that God wants to develop this commercial cultivation of marijuana.
Unknown Speaker 3:15
Yes, Mary Jane, ganja cannabis, chronicreefer, weed.
Unknown Speaker 3:27
Now, before you get the idea that I'm somehow anti weed, I will admit that in the past, I have enjoyed the occasional taste of the devil's lettuce. And I know from plenty of firsthand experience that marijuana is not addictive. And the only thing that can be considered a gateway to is a bag of Doritos. So I support the idea of complete legalization of weed and beliefs. Now currently, you can possess 10 grams or less of marijuana. But you can't buy it. You can't sell it, and you can't grow it. But if you somehow magically come into possession of 10 grams or less, you're good. The decriminalization law is a bit ridiculous, but it was probably a necessary first step as full fledged legislation likely would have been too big of a leap at the time, especially for a very few vocal churches. But decriminalization did serve an important purpose. And that was to prevent police from exploiting the power they had under the old law to search, arrest and incarcerate citizens for something as minor as a couple of joints. The decriminalization law came into effect in November 2017. And since then, none of the reefer madness predictions made by the National evangelical association of Belize have come true. The sky did not fall belief did not turn into a country of heroin or addicts, and there is no evidence scientific or anecdotal that more more Belizeans are now smoking weed than there was three years ago. The only thing we know for sure, is that fewer citizens, especially young, poor Belizeans, are being arrested in jail because of a few sticks of weed.
Unknown Speaker 5:21
So I commend the new government for being progressive enough to at least begin the discussion on taking the big step of legalizing marijuana, and exploring the possibility of establishing a commercial hemp and marijuana industry in Belize. Like I said earlier, I support full legalization of marijuana in Belize. I also believe we have an excellent opportunity to enhance our tourism product by welcoming visitors who enjoy a little local weed as part of their knowledge and experience. As far as I'm concerned, legalization of marijuana should be part of the rebranding of Belize as a tourist destination as we try to recover our most important industry in a post COVID-19 world. The timing for it is perfect. So if I don't have a problem with legalizing weed, nor do I have an issue with commercialization of hemp or marijuana, then you're probably wondering, why am I even talking about this on my podcast? After all, I don't usually use this platform to cheer on the government of Belize! Ah, my dear listeners, you know me well. I may not have a problem with the WHAT. But I do have some concerns about the WHO, in particular, who is Belize's foreign expert? And what is the nature of his relationship with minister of Home Affairs and new growth industries. Kareem Musa? When minister Moosa announced in December that GOB was moving forward with plans to explore legalization and commercialization of weed, I found it remarkable that he already had a guy who was going to hook us up. Now, every good stoner needs a good weed guy. But minister Musa is not buying dime bags in a back alley. He's trying to establish a legitimate and legal commercial marijuana industry for Belize. Something that is not only going to face opposition from holy rollers here at home, but will very likely attract scrutiny and wrath from Uncle Sam. Let's face it, if it wasn't for the United States War on Drugs, and the punitive measures they impose on any nation they consider to be providing aid and comfort to the enemy. A lot of countries probably including Belize, would have legalized weed A long time ago. But as it stands right now, Belize has to stick handle very carefully as we dip our toe in these legal weed waters.
Brent Toombs 8:06
Commercialization will not do anything good for our economy, if the Treasury Department cuts off our international banking system, because we get listed as a narco state. So that's why I found it a bit remarkable that Kareem Musa's first big announcement regarding legalizing weed was not about how he was going to navigate those tricky geopolitical waters, but rather to introduce Belize to his handpicked guru of ganja. His commercial cannabis consultant, Belize's new Wizard of weed, the chronic in chief, the innovator of indica, the Sultan of sativa. Mr. 420 for the 501.
Alex laven, from the great state of Rhode Island, Rhode Island, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2006. But recreational use is still very much against the law. So who is AlexLavin? Well, Alex Lavin owns a medical marijuana cultivation company called Growth Industries. Yes, you heard that correct. Growth Industries. And if you just had an epiphany moment, like when you figured out who Louis Cyphre was in the 1987, movie, Angel Heart, congratulations, you're officially more alert than most of the local media. Okay, maybe it was just a coincidence that the government of Belize named the ministry responsible for legal weed, new growth industries, but then again, maybe it wasn't. But regardless if that was a coincidence or not, the question no one is asking Minister Musa is why has Belize selected Alex Levin to be our foreign marijuana consultant? What is so special about Mr. laven? From my research, it appears that Alex Levin tried unsuccessfully to push politicians in Rhode Island to legalize hemp in 2015. In 2019, a press release from one of his companies claimed to have raised $17 million in private equity to fund growth industries. WPRI television reported that Lavin was paying a politically connected lobbyist $9,000 per month to lobby on behalf of growth industries. Another company Green Reservoir, also owned by Lavin, threatened to sue the state of Rhode Island if they would not accept that company's application for a medical marijuana dispensary license, of which there are currently only three in that state. Also in 2019, Green Reservoir built a high tech state of the art growing facility for reported $7.5 million in Warwick, Rhode Island, where the company operating under the Growth Industries brand has began to cultivate marijuana. Now, none of this makes Alex Lavin a bad guy. And I'm certainly not stupid enough to suggest that the Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries, who is a lawyer, or Mr. Lavin, who has no problem threatened to sue his own state government with a lawsuit are up to anything illegal. But I questioned the value of this relationship for Belize. Why would Alex Lavin give two tokes about legal weed or commercial cannabis in our country? Everything he is doing in the states is supposedly about creating standards for production, so that consumers can be assured that the weed they buy from legal dispensaries will be universal in potency and effectiveness. Mr. Lavin professes to be a scientist, not some backyard ganja farmer. He runs one of the most modern and sophisticated industrialized marijuana grow ops in the world. So why his interest in beliefs and what his uses interest in lab in two weeks ago, growth industries put out a press release announcing that quote, growth industries has been chosen to consult with the parliament and police and help aid in developing the recreational cannabis industry legislation slash regulations in the beautiful country of beliefs. Special thank you to minister career moves up for the vision and trusting growth industries with such a historic privilege and quote. And that's where my spidey senses began to tingle. Because I feel like I've seen this movie before. And I'm not talking about Angel art.
A foreign company puts out a press release about some incredible venture opportunity and beliefs with the full participation of government ministers who are happy to post for photo opportunities and hold memo of understanding signing ceremonies. And then the press release becomes part of the perspective that is used to attract investors or pump up the share price of that foreign company. And when the project fails to get off the ground, or turns out to be a scam, belief suffers another embarrassment or worse, get sued by these very same carpetbaggers for breach of contract. Remember, Puerto Azul or Galleria Maya, or that 2012 concert at Xunantunich? Or I what about that big mall next to the free zone featuring Abercrombie and Fitch that McDonald's or what about the Placencia or Ambergris Caye airports? Or the granddaddy of all hustles, Sanctuary Belize! And the question that no member of our media has ever had the balls to ask in the aftermath of a of these scandals, is; are our local politicians in on these scams or are they just easily fooled? Again, I am not saying that Alex Lavin is the next Andris Pukke or Jorge Jaen. In fact, I hope he will be the Pied Piper of pot that will lead us into the economic Promised Land of commercial cannabis. But Belize has been hoodwinked too many times. So I'm a bit skeptical whenever these investors or consultants appear to just drop out of the sky and fall into the arms of politicians. While nobody bothers to ask the right questions. The media has gotten high on the idea of Scott stern versus Kareem Musa. The general public just wants the church to stay in their lane and leave people alone to enjoy an occasional spliff. Meanwhile, nobody is asking about Alex Lavin, or why a guy who can't legally smoke weed for recreational purposes in his own state is so interested in helping change the laws of Belize. Look, I enjoy a good pissing contest between the evangelical churches and government, probably more than most people. But right now, that's not the story when it comes to legalizing and commercializing weed in Belize, so please don't study the noise in the market. Check your change!
Transcribed by https://otter.ai