The bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana use in the CNMI is now headed to the desk of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres after the Senate, voting 6-2, passed House Bill 20-178 in yesterday’s session on Capital Hill.
The administration, in a statement, said that they will do their part in reviewing the bill before Torres signs it into law. “We’re not commenting on any legislation pending review of the bill,” the statement said.
“We can’t comment yet until it has reached the governor’s desk. In due time, after the governor in due diligence reviews the bill entirely, we will address it and consider the impact it would do to the community as a whole,” added the statement.
Senate President Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan), along with Senate vice president Steve K. Mesngon (R-Rota), original author Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan), and all three Tinian GOP lawmakers—Sens. Francisco M. Borja, Francisco Q. Cruz, and Jude U. Hofschneider—voted in favor of the bill.
Sens. Justo S. Quitugua (R-Saipan) and Teresita A. Santos (R-Rota) abstained, while Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) was absent.
Santos said her position hasn’t changed since Igisomar’s original legislation, Senate Bill 20-62, passed early this year. “I abstained for the same reason when I abstained when I voted on S.B. 20-62 and for the same reason cited therein.”
“I fully support the legislation of marijuana solely for medicinal purposes, but not legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes.”
Igisomar, before the body voted to pass the bill, said the legislation is almost the same thing that the Senate passed in May this year, with Senate legal counsel Antonette Villagomez doing a cross-match with the House version introduced by Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan).
“Generally, they changed the findings in the bill in reference to the one that we passed [S.B. 20-62] in the Senate. They [House] expanded the definition of public property to include all government properties. They changed the number of commission members from nine down to [five], the regular [number] of commission and board members in the CNMI.”
He added that the concern of the CNMI State Public School System were also taken into consideration with the House removing the protection section under Section 128 and 129 in the Senate version.
H.B. 20-178 also put in place a 10 percent ad valorem tax plus a 5 percent tax on all other products associated with marijuana or cannabis.
“Essentially this is the Senate version that went to the House and became the House version,” added Igisomar.