GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Belize is studying a plan to decriminalize possession of small quantities of marijuana, joining other Latin American nations that are trying to find novel ways to battle drug trafficking.
Belize appointed a government committee this week to study ending jail terms for the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana and replacing penalties with small fines and drug education courses, the government said in a statement.
Possession of 60 grams or less of cannabis is punishable by up to $50,000 in fines or three years in prison. Advocates of the decriminalization plan say arrests burden courts and jails in the Central American nation of roughly 313,000 people.
Latin American leaders have been pressuring the United States for an overhaul of anti-drug policies, including possible narcotics legalization as a way to take profits out of the trade.
U.S. President Barack Obama has held firm in rejecting calls to legalize either growing or consuming drugs.
Guatemalan President Otto Perez proposed legalizing drugs this year as a way to combat violent drug cartels that use Central America as a key transit route to smuggle cocaine from South America to the United States.
Perez and other Central American presidents will meet with representatives from the Organization of American States to discuss the details of the plan on August 8.
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said last month that his country will consider legalizing marijuana.
Top officials in Colombia and Mexico, the United States’ strongest allies in the region on drug policy, are also pushing for a new approach to the war on drugs.
Reporting By Mike McDonald; Editing by Stacey Joyce