Most of the attendees at a recent public hearing on the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use are in favor of the proposed legislation.
The public hearing, held Friday evening at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe, drew a sizeable crowd, and most of the testimonies favor the proposed marijuana legislation.
About 100 people showed up at the hearing, which took three hours to finish.
The public was encouraged to give their testimonies and indicate if they are in favor—or not—of Senate Bill 19-06.
The hearing on Friday was the first of two hearings that will be held on Saipan.
According to Sen. Teresita A. Santos (R-Rota), there were 27 testimonies in favor of the proposed legislation and three testimonies against it.
Santos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, said the three dissenting votes called for more studies and clarifications of the proposed bill.
The favorable responses were varied, as some wanted to allow the medicinal use of marijuana, while some favored its recreational use.
Some of the personal testimonies were from actual sufferers of cancer and other debilitating diseases. These patients said they are using marijuana-based products—such as oil extracts—as alternative to more expensive treatments.
Dr. Daniel Lamar, the Commonwealth Heathcare Corp.’s medical director for public health, said that lawmakers should look into fully legalizing marijuana to avoid creating another layer in the bureaucracy.
He cited that, based on the testimonials, a lot of patients in the CNMI “can no longer wait.”
Another testimonial came from a tourist from Colorado, who said she favors the legalization of marijuana, not just for medicinal purposes.
Colorado is one of the states to fully legalize the use of marijuana. Marijuana farming is said to have economic benefits for the state, in terms of actual sale for growers and in terms of tourists going to Colorado.
Legalizing marijuana beyond medicinal use also has an advantage, because it is no longer subject to some restrictions imposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
CNMI resident Ambrose Bennett cited the testimonial, saying the economic impact of marijuana farming is very substantial.
Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan) earlier appealed to the public to focus their comments on the medicinal—and not recreational—use of marijuana at the public hearing. However, he said he welcomes all of the comments made during the public hearing.