Published On: Tue, Apr 28th, 2020

MP Emmanuel: Legalize marijuana now

PHILIPSBURG – Ten thousand people in St. Maarten are smoking marijuana and they spend $20 to $30 a day on it, MP Christophe Emmanuel said during his plea for legalizing the soft drug the budget debate.

If Emmanuel’s numbers reflect reality this would mean that ganja-users spend between $600 and $900 a month on marijuana. The current monthly minimum wage on the island is around $845. Consumption for all users on an annual basis would be between $73 million and $109.5 million if the parliamentarian’s numbers check out.

“Legalize it now, he said, holding up a sheet from an exercise book with the words: “WEED LEGALIZE IT!!”

“It is the only business that is not suffering,” Emmanuel said, adding later that a legalized marijuana industry could generate between $5 and $7.5 million annually for the country.

The MP pointed out that Antigua, Barbados and Aruba are taking initiatives to legalize marijuana and that Jamaica has already done this. He suggested selling licenses for growing what he called “the national herb” for $20,000 a year and to offer an apology to all Rastafarians.

It is not the first time Emmanuel calls for legalizing marijuana. He did the same during the 2018 budget debate in May of that year. On that occasion, the MP said that he would submit a draft amendment to article 7 of the National Opium ordinance to make selling and using legal for medical and recreational use.

“St. Maarten could make $60 million a year from the sale of legalized marijuana,” Emmanuel said in 2018.

A few years earlier, legalizing-proponent Arun Jagtiani estimated that a local marijuana industry could create one hundred jobs and generate an annual turnover of $22 million and around $945,000 in turnover tax. In 2016 Jagtiani spoke of an annual turnover of $19.5 million and $1 million in turnover tax.

Emmanuel touched on two other topics in his address to parliament, the first one being the corona-virus crisis.

“What we are looking at is not a sprint but a very slow marathon,” he said. “COVID-19 should be our priority now and all our money should go into saving the lives of people.” With thirteen corona-patients deceased and 73 registered cases of infection on a population “of at most 50,000” Emmanuel called the situation “alarming, because this is about people we know. The only way out is testing.”

Emmanuel also reacted to our article about the 500 Venezuelans that are stuck on the island. “They are better off at home,” he said. “Get them out fast. Call the foreign minister of Venezuela and tell him to send a plane to St. Maarten fast. I understand humanitarian and we have been nice and generous after Hurricane Irma but we cannot feed them. What we have is for the people of St. Maarten.”

###

Relevant links:
MP Emmanuel: legalize marijuana
Venezuelans in St. Maarten are hoping for quick repatriation
COVID-19 Updates for 27 April 2020
2020 draft budget debate Monday, April 27, 2020