The Division of Youth Services—the agency that directly deals with the youth and families in the CNMI—encourages caution and further research when it comes to the legalization of cannabis use in the CNMI.
The CNMI Legislature is currently exploring the possibility of legalizing the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis or marijuana and is refining a bill, that would allow it. About three weeks ago, another public hearing was called to discuss Senate Bill 20-62 and the revisions made to the bill but DYS said it stands by the statement it submitted back in October 2017.
DYS primarily asks: Marijuana may have been been proven to alleviate pain in cancer patients and has served as the solution for a number of other illnesses, but what exactly would its adverse effects be on troubled adolescents and families in the CNMI community?
DYS administrator Vivian Sablan said her office works directly with troubled families and, with the current drug problem the CNMI faces, precautions should be taken in legalizing the recreational marijuana portion of S.B. 20-62 to ensure that more good than harm is done to the CNMI community.
According to DYS comments, the agency will provide support to regulate cannabis in the CNMI for medicinal purposes provided that the legalization will come with strict regulations.
“The intended benefits to the welfare of our CNMI residents will only come when there is ‘control.’ Although we don’t want to be misconstrued for supporting drug use, we will support for therapeutic use strictly for those adults suffering from certain medical conditions,” she said.
On the other hand, DYS stands by its opinion that there are areas of the bill that must be of critical concern, especially when it comes to legalizing cannabis for personal use.
“Cannabis legalization for recreational/personal use can lead to ‘abuse’ and may create many other familial and community issues. The bill states, ‘allowing for adult use of marijuana will contribute to the decrease in youth access to marijuana and usage rates among the youth.’ DYS stands to disagree. The legalization will make marijuana easily accessible to adults and most especially the youth, which may play a role in contributing to other parenting issues and juvenile delinquency,” she said.
DYS is also concerned that legalizing cannabis may lead to dependency and addiction and would ultimately lead to the use of more serious illegal drugs.
“The long-term use and abuse will affect families and they ultimately suffer lifelong consequences. We continue to battle the ill effects of drugs and its associated problems in the CNMI. If we are talking about ‘public health, safety and quality of life’ for all residents…then we should continue to work to prevent the existing problems,” she said.
Sablan said she personally understands that the legalization of marijuana could greatly impact medical patients in the CNMI, but as a DYS administrator and a person who has gathered statistics and has witnessed the lives of families in the CNMI who battle drug problems, the recreational use of marijuana should be carefully assessed before it is passed into law.
“As a youth service agency and an agency mandated to serve the best interest of families in our community, we would like to put an emphasis on caution,” she said.