‘Concerns’ stymie House action on pot bill

Heated discussions anticipated

The House of Representatives’ three-hour session yesterday went on recess just as it was about to tackle a bill legalizing the medical and recreational use of marijuana. The session was moved to today at the House Chamber on Capitol Hill at 9:30am.

In a vote of 18-0, the House unanimously adopted the committee report from the Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee, led by Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan), which had recommended the passage of Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar’s (R-Saipan) Senate Bill 20-62 to legalize the medical and recreational use of marijuana and regulate the industry that would come with it.

However, during discussions on the adoption of the committee report, several House members hinted that heated discussions would follow discussions on the bill today.

Rep. Donald Barcinas (R-Saipan), one of several who questioned the bill, stated that although the JGO committee had deleted several provisions in the bill that technically made it a revenue-generating measure, it still “falls short” of its intention. Barcinas believes the bill, even with the amendments, remains a revenue-generating bill and it should not have left the Senate. Barcinas cited the CNMI Constitution, which states that revenue-generating bills must only originate from the House.

Both Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) and Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) also had qualms about the bill. Sablan told Saipan Tribune in a conversation on the bill that there were “issues” with the bill that still need to be addressed. He did not elaborate.

Propst pointed out in his social media account several provisions of the amended bill that sits uneasy with him, such as a JGO amendment that lifted the “clean-slate” requirement for proposed cannabis commissioners and cannabis commission executive directors.

According to the current version of the bill, the JGO amended it to allow felons who have been convicted of a crime for more than 15 years to serve as commissioner or executive director for the proposed cannabis commission. Individuals who, in the previous 15 years, have criminal records, are ineligible to serve as a cannabis commissioner or executive director.

Propst also had issues with a previous Senate amendment on the bill that increased the number of cannabis commissioners to nine—five for Saipan and two each for Rota and Tinian. Propst noted on his social media account that he is eyeing an amendment to reduce it to five.

Propst also noted in his account that he is working with Rep. Vinson Sablan (Ind-Saipan) on amendments to the cannabis bill.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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