More public hearings


The last opinion piece I did was based on excerpts of the actual provisional language of the current bill as it is written and were just bullet points highlighting what is “prohibited” and “allowed” in the current draft bill that was adopted by the Senate on Oct. 10, 2017, as SB 20-62 SD1.

It is understood that some people probably were not able to read over 50 pages of the entire draft, at home or the hearings, and may have missed key points of the bill. So we took an approach to simply educate the people on these important areas so they will at least know how to address their conce rns and recommendations at the public hearings to follow. We also extended the opportunity and handed out flyers of these bullet points to the public who were present at the Oct. 23 hearing, so they may have the convenience to be better informed of the current written language and to make their addresses to the Senate at the time, which they did.

We understand the processes of entertaining a legislative bill so we are fully aware that changes will be made only after all the public hearings take place should the Senate be convinced to do so, based on the merits and feasibility of concerns, suggestions, and recommendations made by the public. This is just how it is done and we have no control over this process.

My opinion will not change the senators’ minds on this issue. It is not my decision to make, after all. I have made suggestions since 2015 in drafting the current bill to which many of our suggestions were later changed to satisfy the concerns of others, for whatever the reasons may be. We know how the political process works in this respect, and that not all wishes will be granted. This is why we encourage the public to engage themselves in this matter as it will directly and indirectly affect everybody.

Is the current bill good enough? Yes, compared to how other legal states started with their ballot drafts. Could it be better? Yes, if proper corrections are made during the final draft process, and only after the public hearings. Could it be the best? Never, as changes in political, social, and economic trends will shift daily to making necessary amendments. We must consider the CNMI Cannabis Act as an evolutionary bill that will cater to those necessary changes if we are to succeed and progress forward consistently. Think about this recommendation by a civilian: “The bill should only allow the CNMI indigenous people the opportunity for licensing in the cannabis industry.”

One thing is for sure: There will be a breaking point where we all have to make up our minds and come to a compromise if we really want to see this through to the 2018 ballot. As we all can agree, time is of the essence, my friend. Have a great and blessed day.

The next public hearing will be held today, Oct. 27 on Tinian at 2pm at the Tinian courthouse. The public is encouraged to attend and participate with oral and/or written testimony. Rota public hearing is on the first week of November. We must speak now or forever hold our peace. We must engage ourselves for change to happen if we demand accessible cannabis for medical and nonmedical purposes. Unity in the community.

Gerry Palacios Hemley
via email

Contributing Author

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