St. Maarten just took a giant step in economic development by signing off on the cannabis legislation. However, we must be careful that this new economic development does not benefit only a few. When I first campaigned for the legalization of cannabis and its sale to the market in 2014, no other politician wanted to touch the subject for fear of unpopularity. I was the only one willing to propose this form of economic development. The fact that it is beneficial for the country was irrelevant. I was ridiculed by the same politicians who permitted me to run with this campaign.
Behind my back was talk of, Engel must be a smoker or a seller. That is why he is campaigning for legalization of cannabis. Thus, the potential for economic development died a natural death. I believe, however, that my motivation behind legalization of the use, and sale of cannabis was not what others may want out of it. It is still my firm conviction that the government must own and operate the business. Licences must not be issued to private investors. There is a perfect model from the government of Canada that we can use to benefit the entire population of St. Maarten with.
By having exclusive rights for sale of cannabis to the market, government has direct and total benefit of the huge income derived from this market. This provides generous income for the coffers of the government, which in turn permits the government to use this income in development of the infrastructure of the island. Be it housing, schooling, law enforcement, road improvements, or any other requirements of government functioning. Repayment of loans to the Netherlands can also be serviced from this income.
Another use for the income could be the reduction of wage, or income tax. If the business is placed in the hands of private investors, they will make a fortune and pay only the share of what is required. The government will lose out on the opportunity to develop the country. I am not against the businessman. I am one myself. However, my philosophy is that if I enrich the population, I empower their spending capacity. By empowering their spending capacity, all merchants’ benefit.
Also, let the retail of cannabis be permitted by the illegal vendors. Give them the opportunity to become legal vendors. If one cannot afford to establish on their own, a joint venture can be established so that none are left out. Sales points must be established according to the carrying capacity of the neighbourhoods to avoid saturation. I request of the work group, to please endeavour for the study to place emphasis on benefits for all.