Santos, Deleon Guerrero oppose the bill’s passage
The Senate passed Thursday a bill that will remove—with certain exceptions—marijuana from all pre-employment testing and random testing that all government employees go through, as implemented by the Office of Personnel Management.
Senators adopted the report of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Government, Law and Federal Relations, then moved for the passage of Senate Bill 22-01 in the form of Senate Draft 1. Sen. Karl R. King-Nabors (R-Tinian) chairs the committee.
Six senators voted “yes,” two voted “no” and one—Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R-Saipan)—was not present during the voting as he left the Senate chamber prior to the chamber acting on the bill.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for action.
The six senators that voted “yes” were Senate president Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) who is the bill’s author, vice president Justo S. Quitugua (R-Saipan), floor leader Vinson F. Sablan (Ind-Saipan), Francisco Q. Cruz (R-Tinian), King-Nabors, and Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota).
Sens. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) and Edith E. DeLeon Guerrero (D-Saipan) voted against the bill.
Santos pointed out that the Drug-Free Workforce Act of 1988 essentially says that any entity that receives federal grants or funds must be a drug-free workplace or it’ll lose its federal funding.
“Pre-employment testing is a key part of this policy,” Santos said.
Given that some agencies and departments of the CNMI government rely heavily on federal funds—as is currently the case—approving this legislation will jeopardize the availability of those funds, she said. “We cannot afford to do just that, given our state of economy worsened by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic,” Santos said.
The senator said this reason was further echoed by the CNMI Office of Personnel Management director who does not support the bill in a letter to the committee.
In voting “no,” DeLeon Guerrero said the U.S. government maintains that cannabis is dangerous enough to merit Schedule I status.
DeLeon Guerrero said the CNMI is a recipient of millions of federal funds that requires assurances from state grantees of these funds are for a drug-free workplace.
She said removing marijuana from pre-employment testing also sends the wrong message, where much of the private sector promotes a drug-free workplace, yet the public sector that is supposed to provide efficient public service is going in the opposite direction.
“It would be interesting to see the public sector’s cannabis employment data between medical prescription use vs recreational use, but then again, was this even analyzed before passage?” the senator asked.
Hofschneider stated in the bill that the enactment of Public Law 20-66, the “Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018,” authorized the personal, medicinal, and commercial use of cannabis or marijuana in the CNMI.
Yet, Hofschneider, said, P.L. 20-66 did not change or amend the drug testing policies of the CNM government and still includes testing for marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols in a person’s system as a condition of employment.