Continuing to label cannabis users as criminals is not only illogical but no longer works, argues pro-cannabis group Sensible CNMI. Instead, having a system to regulate the emerging industry is the only possible solution, it said.
Sensible CNMI was one of the groups that pushed for cannabis legalization in the Commonwealth, making the CNMI the first territory to legalize not just the medical use of marijuana but also its recreational use.
That became official in September last year when Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed into law the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018.
Guam followed suit early this month after Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed a bill that would allow medical cannabis in the territory.
In a statement to Saipan Tribune, Sensible CNMI said that governments like the CNMI and Guam are passing up on the opportunity of benefiting from cannabis if it remains a prohibited substance.
“When we prohibit a substance, especially one as popular and valuable as cannabis, we give up all control of that substance to unregulated markets. …We have no control over who’s selling, where they are selling, to whom they are selling to, and what other substances they are willing to sell to customers of any age,” the Sensible CNMI statement said.
“As a consequence of our war on cannabis, we have effectively given up controls over every aspect of its production, processing, and marketing to anyone who is interested in the enormous profits that can be made,” it added.
With cannabis being on the list of illicit drugs, the prohibition policies in an unregulated market caused some youth to move from using cannabis to other illegal substances, the group argued.
“This has given way to a complete disrespect for the rule of law as it is completely unrealistic thing that we could enforce our current drug laws, when our policies have only served to glamorize and incentivize the drug trade, which can occur anywhere, at any time, and virtually everywhere,” they said.
“Our communities are awash in drugs despite the best efforts of local and federal law enforcement, citizens, and organizations. We simply cannot be everywhere all the time and it is silly to think that we can arrest our way out of this conundrum.”
Sensible CNMI finds it immoral to deny legal access to marijuana. “In fact, destroying people’s lives over their use of a plant that God gave us is the most immoral collusion ever, one that the Catholic Church of Guam has become complacent in, by continuing to advocate for the status quo of arresting and incarcerating our own people.”
“Continuing to criminalize cannabis consumers is neither logical nor effective. It is therefore pragmatic for us to move from a system of no controls or regulations, to a system that oversees and regulates where and how cannabis is grown, processed, and sold.”
The group said a regulated system would monitor and zone stores that would be licensed to sell in limited operating hours while also requiring to ask consumers for any identification that would show they are of legal age to buy cannabis, “effectively prohibiting the youth from accessing cannabis.”
“In effect, we are better protecting our youth through a legally regulated system than [where] we are currently, where anyone can sell them cannabis. This is why in every state that has moved to a regulated system for cannabis has observed youth access and rates either stay the same or decrease.”