Marijuana bill passes


I must thank the senators for passing the marijuana bill (Senate Bill 20-62), with a special thanks to Sen. Sixto for finally getting it done. As for the three who abstained—Sens. Paul Manglona, Terry Santos and Justo Quitugua—one can only wonder. It has been almost a four-year journey to get to this point and hopefully the bill will have smoother sailing in the House of Representatives and the governor.

The big but is that we still have a long way to go in creating the two industries identified in the bill. The bill must now pass its first inspection point in the House of Representative where it will surely face different perspectives; the bill could become a political football and sent back to the Senate, which is not uncommon. But that is OK; we must trust in the process. We also don’t need to look like Guam because of a lack of preparation.

The governor must also now weigh-in on the bill. The legalization of marijuana is simple but it is the complexities of governance, enforcement and accountability over the cannabis and hemp industries that is the true challenge. I’m sure the governor will want to avoid any and all pitfalls so let’s just hope the Senate has done a good job on the bill.

If we can’t get a lab for testing and if our growers aren’t ready with strains of marijuana we still won’t be ready to open dispensaries as we must start with the marijuana already in the CNMI. I have been telling marijuana growers for about two years that they need to start “cloning and developing strains.” Colorado, Oregon and Washington didn’t have a supply problem due to the thousands that were already growing strains. But if our growers haven’t taken note and begin the creation of strains, the cannabis industry will be delayed in opening until the CNMI develops the strains and inventory. We must also find a lab, which will be a challenge due to what will be a very small market.

The justification for legalization has really come a long way. You don’t need to be a user of marijuana to support legalization. The CNMI has the advantage of “hindsight” in seeing the future trends of our society and we should be able to deal with any potential pitfalls that our predecessors had to experience firsthand.

It has been proven that we (the U.S. Congress and the rest of America) were all lied to when they first made marijuana illegal. So don’t be so naive as to believe those lies told almost a century ago to make marijuana illegal.

Science and research has proven marijuana is very helpful for medical purposes and is virtually harmless and far less addictive for recreational use when compared to alcohol and tobacco. Opponents of marijuana need to focus more on limiting the use of alcohol and tobacco.

The concern over our youth becoming engrossed in marijuana use has been proven wrong. Statistics in states where legalization exist has shown that the use of marijuana among teens has decreased, not increased.

Marijuana could treat chronic pain better than opioids and, given we now have an opioids epidemic, this is great news.

Most of the adverse incidents of marijuana overdosing and car accidents have already been attributed to the lack of education and experience in using marijuana.

U.S. legal weed sales could rise by nearly 50 percent in 2018 and hit more than $22 billion by 2022.

Recreational pot sales could double medical sales by 2022.

Total U.S. cannabis demand is $52.5 billion and we are wasting time to get a piece of this humongous pie. Cannabis tourism is the future of tourism in America.

Marijuana jobs growth to average 21 percent a year through 2022.

Federal prosecutors won’t take on small-time marijuana cases, despite the Justice Department’s decision to lift an Obama-era policy that discouraged authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where legal. Federal prosecutors have only intervened when a state’s own marijuana laws are being violated.

Trump now backs marijuana “states rights” bill.

Denver approved the city’s first legal marijuana club, paving the way for non-alcohol clubs!

The Las Vegas airport is letting people dump their marijuana before flying, which is something I recommended.

The reality is humans have been using marijuana for centuries and it hasn’t made anyone sick nor killed anyone. It is high time for us all to learn how to live with marijuana without making someone a criminal for using it. Criminalization did not work, making legalization our best option.

Ambrose M. Bennett
Kagman, Saipan

Ambrose M. Bennett

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