CNMI voters may have an opportunity to join California and other states who will be voting on ballot measures aimed at repealing the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and replacing this with a sensible policy that brings marijuana and hemp into a legal framework to allow for the regulation and taxation of the plant, for medical, personal, industrial, and other purposes.
The California Secretary of State’s Office has certified an initiative for the November 8 election that will allow voters to consider whether or not to legalize, regulate, and tax recreational marijuana.
The initiative has already received endorsements from California’s Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the American Medical Association of California, the California Democratic Party, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the Drug Policy Alliance, and others.
“Today marks a fresh start for California as we prepare to replace the costly, harmful and ineffective system of prohibition with a safe, legal and responsible adult-use marijuana system that gets it right and completely pays for itself,” according to Jason Kinney, a spokesman for California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).
Backers of the initiative hope to follow the lead of other progressive states that have chosen to regulate and tax recreational marijuana sales, to include Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Washington, and Washington, D.C. At least eight other states will have similar marijuana initiatives on the ballot this November.
The Adult Use of Marijuana act would allow adults ages 21 and older to possess, transport and use up to an ounce of cannabis for recreational purposes and would allow individuals to grow as many as six plants.
Similar legislation is being proposed here in the CNMI in the form of the Commonwealth Marijuana Regulation Act (CMRA), introduced by Sen. Sixto Igisomar and referenced as Senate Bill SB 19-106, as a legislatively referred commonwealth initiative that he hopes will be approved by his fellow colleagues for inclusion in the CNMI’s 2016 election ballot. The senator had this to say about the proposed legislation, “It’s time for the CNMI to move from our current unregulated system to a regulated system for marijuana that will do a better job of protecting children and improving access for citizens with medical conditions that may benefit from use of marijuana. Regulating and taxing the production, processing, and retail sales of marijuana will create new jobs and a revenue source that can be used to support the general fund, funding to support our hospital, public schools, and the life of our retirees.”
The Commonwealth Marijuana Regulation Act is a consensus measure that is modeled after Oregon’s Marijuana law which encompasses the recognized best management practices to control, regulate, and tax marijuana and hemp. The act is furthermore informed by the eight federal guidelines concerning marijuana enforcement that were developed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014. The act has been adapted to local needs and conditions with input from medical professionals, law enforcement, patients, growers, the citizens group Sensible CNMI, and others who participated in public hearings and committee meetings.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2011, the Northern Mariana Islands ranked second in the world for cannabis (marijuana) use at 22 percent, when compared to other countries and based on the percentage of adults and youth (ages 15-64), who have consumed cannabis in the past year.