Groups split on marijuana legalization


Newly formed group Sensible CNMI and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce have expressed different views on Senate Bill 19-106, a proposed Act to Regulate Marijuana in the CNMI, which aims for personal use and decriminalization of the drug that is also used for medicinal purposes.

While Sensible CNMI has thrown its support for the bill of Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan), the chamber did a U-turn after at first backing the measure.

The Chamber, last September, withdrew its support of Igisomar’s bill after backing the measure in August. In an email to the media, the Chamber said they decided to pull its support for the bill based on some provisions that are unsatisfactory.

“After further review of the legislation, it was determined by the board of directors that provisions in this legislation are not to our satisfaction. We retract our prior letter on Senate Bill 19-106,” the Chamber stated.

Prior to withdrawing its support, the Chamber’s Governmental Relations Committee believes “the intent of SB 19-106 is to put the issue on the ballot for the people to decide [and] the democratic process should be upheld, especially in a matter as potentially controversial as this.”

The committee, in its letter of support, added that if the bill becomes law, it would have a positive effect on the CNMI’s economy as additional tax revenue, much like in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.

On the other hand, Sensible CNMI co-founder Lawrence Duponcheel said they see a lot of positive effects in regulating and taxing marijuana use in the Commonwealth. “Support for approving the responsible adult use of marijuana continues to grow as more and more states experience the overwhelmingly positive benefits of regulating and taxing marijuana.”

“[This] include ensuring that medical patients have legal protection and access to their medicine, reductions in youth marijuana usage rates, as much as a 24-percent reduction in accidental overdoses by prescription medications, reductions in government spending, and substantial increases in government revenues.”

Duponcheel said they would continue to work with various sectors of the community to improve SB 19-106. “[We] will continue to work with local leaders, professionals, and advocacy groups to strengthen and improve the Commonwealth Marijuana Regulation Act…with the goal of reintroducing the proposed legislation as a legislatively-referred ballot measure that aims to allow the CNMI voters to consider the bill in the 2018 election. The proposed bill would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adults 21 and older for medical, personal, and industrial purposes.”

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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