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Marijuana in Parliament.

Dear Editor,

Thank you for allowing me space in your publication. On April 28, 2020, I read an article on the website StMaartenNews.com with the headline "MP Emmanuel: Legalize marijuana now" While I am pleased to see this discussion taking place in Parliament, I have some concern with the manner in which this subject is being handled. There seems to be a misconception that simply legalizing this industry is a foolproof way for the government to quickly make money. Yes, there is tremendous economic potential, but if its not done responsibly there can be detrimental consequences. If the only focus of the government is to make money from this industry, this golden opportunity will be sold out to the highest bidder, and there will be few economic benefits (if any) for the local community.

MP Emmanuel is quoted as saying "Ten thousand people in St. Maarten are smoking marijuana and they spend $20 to $30 a day on it." I'm not sure where MP Emmanuel has gathered this data, but I think it's very irresponsible to arbitrarily throw numbers around when trying to understand the potential of this industry. For reference it is estimated in the United States that the average Cannabis consumer spends US$650 annually (source: September 2018 - Centennial Spotlight: Marijuana Goes Mainstream), that's not even 10% of what the honorable MP was estimating. According to the article MP Emmanuel has also made predictions of possible tax revenue for the island, but it seems like all his calculations are based on the incorrect assumption that the entire black market will disappear as soon as legislation is introduced.

I am not trying to be overly critical of the MP, on the contrary, I applaud him (and others) for raising this issue in Parliament, but I think it's important to highlight the need for government to make sure they have a proper understanding of this industry before creating policies on how to regulate it. This is just one example of several inaccurate statements I have heard from some of our political leaders as it relates to this topic.

By means of this letter, I would like to publicly offer the consulting services of Herbal Awareness SXM to any member of parliament who is genuinely interested in drafting legislation to start regulating the Cannabis industry for Medicinal and Adult-use in St. Maarten.

* Herbal Awareness SXM has hosted several community town hall meetings on this topic dating back to 2015. We also made a presentation to Parliament in 2016 and have championed this issue within the local media on various talk shows and publications for several years now.

Sincerely
Arun Jagtiani
Herbal Awareness SXM


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