Senate OKs marijuana bill

The Senate passed yesterday a bill that legalizes the use of marijuana and related industries for regulation and sets up an age limit for the use and possession of the substance.

Sen. Sixto Igisomar’s (R-Saipan) Senate Bill 20-62 passed the Senate on a vote of 6-0 and three abstentions.

The bill allows the use of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes; sets up an age limit for its use; and sets up a governmental entity to regulate the substance.

Sens. Justo Quitugua (Ind-Saipan), Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota), and Teresita Santos (R-Rota) abstained from voting.

During discussions on the bill, Santos said marijuana is known to affect brain development, which in turn affects behavioral patterns and ultimately, performance at home and school.

“When [it] gets into the hands of our teenagers, marijuana could alter their senses, [induce] mood changes, impair body movements, [result in] difficulty with thinking and problem solving, impaired memory, and even hallucinations,” she said, adding that parents from Rota signed a petition opposing the bill for recreational purposes.

Santos clarified that she was only in support of the medicinal aspect of marijuana.

“As a result, to protect our children from the adverse effects and consequences and the fact that personal and recreational use is embedded in the legislation, I voted in abstention. Otherwise, if it [was] for medicinal purposes, I would have voted in the affirmative,” Santos said.

In an interview, an excited Igisomar thanked those who participated in the public hearings for the bill, which resulted in a thick compilation. Igisomar also hoped that the House acts in favor of the bill.

“Based on previous feedback I got from the House, the only indication they gave me was [to make sure of the Senate’s due diligence],” he said. “That is why we made sure that we had a report with all the details–who came in, who made comments, what research [are available], what documents were submitted in support of the concept.”

Prior to the vote, there were little to no discussions on the bill. Both Quitugua and Manglona did not comment on the bill. Saipan Tribune sought for comments from the two why they abstained from voting on the bill but they had yet to respond as of press time.

Sen. Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian) proposed a floor amendment to amend the cannabis commission representation of Tinian and Rota to two members each. Saipan has five members on the commission and the commission, according to Igisomar, is subject to the statutory requirement of having at least one woman representative and one Refaluwasch representative.

The amendment carried unanimously and the bill would be further amended for other technicalities.
S.B. 20-62 now heads to the House for action.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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