Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan), who was one of the main authors of the cannabis or marijuana law, believes the commercial aspect of the new industry “will happen no matter what,” so he encourages the CNMI Cannabis Commission to give more focus on the law’s medicinal aspect to help people who are suffering debilitating illnesses or have cancer.
Igisomar pointed out that this was, in fact, the original impetus behind the “Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018,” which later became Public Law 20-66. That law authorized personal, medicinal, and commercial use of cannabis or marijuana in the CNMI.
Igisomar said last week that the history of the bill’s purpose shows that it was originally strictly for medicinal use only in the beginning, then became inclusive of personal use, and then the commercial aspect. At that time, he said, the commercial aspect was never really the impetus of the bill because of opposition that could have snagged the bill’s passage.
Igisomar raised this issue with the implementation of the cannabis law after the Cannabis Commission held Tuesday a presentation about the commission and the marijuana industry before the Senate Committee on Cannabis and Gaming.
The senator said the concern of many people based on the original bill that he authored was to help people who are suffering debilitating illnesses. “It was never really commercial,” he said.
He advised the commission not to focus so much on the commercial side as “it will happen no matter what.”
By focusing hard on the commercial aspect, the commission will potentially be affecting the people who truly need this bill and that is for medicinal purpose, he added. “And to clarify, the medicinal purpose is not so that you can authorize a laboratory inspection on a product just so that it can be sold in pharmaceuticals stores. That is not the purpose,” he said.
Igisomar said that, based on the introduction of this bill, it’s really for the medicinal purpose and traditional use of marijuana. “And so I’m hoping that the commission may be able to explore the licensing and or authorization [for that purpose],” he said.
The senator said he is aware of the challenges the commission faces and he hopes they will be able to overcome them so they can allow people to access the medicinal aspect of this marijuana law “whereby they can plant whatever they need, to plant in order to help themselves. I’m really hoping that you are able to overcome the obstacles and put this medicinal aspect into place.”
Igisomar said the reason why the personal use was allowed or inserted into this bill was for its medicinal purpose, but that the only way they can allow medicinal use of marijuana is through easy access, which is to allow personal use access and from there, people will be able to use marijuana for their own use.
Igisomar also requested the commission, if possible, to remove the language or use of the word recreational in their presentation. He pointed out that nowhere in the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act is the word “recreational” used. “And there’s a very good reason why,” he said.
Igisomar said that in working on the non-medicinal side since 2014, they’ve always talked about the concept of personal use and, at that time, recreational use was being attacked in the U.S. mainland as a negative. He said they did not want to put any form of negativity into the bill or the act.
“So I’m recommending, if it’s not too much, to revisit your regulations,” the senator said.
Igisomar said he is hoping that the commission stick to the personal use of marijuana. “That’s very important,” he said.
With respect to the data collection or registry, Igisomar said it is for the CNMI government to have information on the use of marijuana in the CNMI. He said it’s strictly data and that he is happy that the Cannabis Commission is able to make sure that no one else will able to access it. Igisomar said it’s intended to prevent putting people at risk.
“And I’m bluntly saying it it’s to prevent the federal government from raiding our people,” he said.
The senator said if the federal government wants to do any raids, then they should use their own data and their own investigation at their own cost, but not at the CNMI’s expense.
In September 2018, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed the marijuana bill into law, making the CNMI the first U.S. territory to legalize both the medical and recreational use of marijuana.
It also made the CNMI the first U.S. jurisdiction to do so through its Legislature, rather than via ballot initiative.