24 May 2016
St. Maarten News reports…..
No enthusiasm in St. Maarten parliament for legalizing marijuana
There is no great enthusiasm in the parliament for legalizing marijuana. That is the conclusion of yesterday’s meeting where Freedom Fighters Foundation President Roland Joe, aka Bushman, accompanied by archeologist Dr. Jay Haviser, Dr. Dan Johnson and realtor Arun Jagtiani made his case in favor of legalizing.
The only one who stood up for legalization was UP-MP Tamara Leonard, who said that she is benefiting for using medical marijuana. Dr. Lloyd Richardson had medical and social objections, Johan Leonard was dead against, George Pantophlet was “neither for or against” at this stage and Sarah Wescot-Williams thought it a good idea to put the question to the population in a referendum, but only once said population was properly educated about the issue.
Archeologist Dr. Jay Haviser opened the floor with a strong statement about civil liberties. “I believe strongly that individuals have the right to do to their own body and practice personal behavior as they choose in the privacy of their home without government intervention. It is up to individuals to decide what they want to do with their bodies – be it in healthcare, religion or personal behavior – as long as this does not negatively affect the greater society.”
Haviser described the consumption of cannabis as “a victimless crime,” adding that “the use of cannabis is not for everyone, yet it is a purely natural product with important medical benefits that should not be denied to those who choose to use it.”
The archeologist continued with an impressive overview of the history of cannabis. Introduced in the Caribbean in 1830 by East Caribbean Indians, the plant was used for medical purposes. This was also the case in the Middle East and Asia, “for more than 3,000 years.”
In the United States, farmers in the 18th century were required to grow cannabis hemp for food and textile productions and for medicine.
But between 1915 and 1927 the sentiment towards cannabis changed in the US when ten states outlawed the stuff. By 1950, the US even considered cannabis “a dangerous drug” and it took another quarter of a century before the Netherlands became the first country in the world to decriminalize cannabis in 1976.
In 1996 California legalized medical marijuana and by 2013, 23 states had followed its example. Four US states and all Indian reservations have fully legalized the use of cannabis by now and 37 countries have decriminalized possession of cannabis for personal use, Haviser said.
He likened cannabis to the local consumption of bush tea and noted that in the 18th century, “according to old maid’s tales” the tomato plant was believed to be poisonous and referred to as the devil’s apple.
Haviser said that the media since the 1930s have contributed to the negative reputation of cannabis by describing it as dangerous and evil. “In reality, cannabis is far less dangerous than alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical prescription drugs.”
Haviser suggested the establishment of a state-of-the art agricultural station to put local cannabis cultivation on a proper footing.
Arun Jagtiani basically repeated the presentation he gave during a forum about legalization that took place in June of last year at the Belair Community Center. From a business point of view, there is a lot to be said for legalization. Jagtiani estimates that a local industry could amount to $19.5 million annually, create 100 local jobs and generate close to a million in turnover taxes.
“Marijuana is the fastest growing industry in the United States and in St. Maarten there is already an industry for recreational use,” he said. “We’re only not collecting taxes on it. How could medical marijuana even be an issue today? The discussion is way past that point. People ought to have access to medical marijuana if it benefits them medically. In the United Stated and Canada, 52 percent of the population is living in states where medical marijuana is available.”