First, I want to extend my sincere humble and respectful apologies to the senators given they felt that I was being insulting for reminding them they work for the people and for asking them to recognize what the majority preferred in the hearings, which was full legalization. The news article did not mention how I praised Sixto for his role and that I was even urging him to not be afraid to be a great leader! Furthermore I did apologize to the senators for using strong language but it was my right to get on their case like people did with the impeachment if this is truly a democracy of, for and by the people. I never lied about anything I said, just told the truth but sometimes the truth just hurts and I’m sorry if I hurt their feelings but this is too important and there is too much at stake for the entire CNMI.
It is already a matter of public record that Sixto tried to place a gag order on people by telling us we couldn’t comment on full legalization, which truly confused and even scared people. Medical use is what he wants but what about what we the people want when he is supposed to be working for the majority? I am just so thankful he had the wisdom so we could comment or we wouldn’t know all the pitfalls of medical use alone and they would have never heard any testimonies that proved full legalization was better. In the hearings on Rota the majority were for medical use but preferred full legalization. On Saipan there were 27 testimonies and the majority of them were for medical use but preferred full legalization, highlighted by a doctor from CHC who spoke a second time switching from medical use to full legalization because of the many problems with medical use alone that was exposed in the hearings. Were the senators listening to the same testimony the doctor heard? He even explained the fact that many of his patients will still not be able to get marijuana if they don’t have insurance. Heck, many of our sick have to fundraise just to get treatment so now we are going to set them up to do more fundraising or commit crimes to get marijuana under medical use alone. The senators should have learned like the doctor and the rest of us in the hearing that full legalization is the path we should be taking!
It took me getting on their case for Senate floor leader Arnold Palacios to finally come out and say, “We are considering recreational use on the record.” My testimony was worth it and even the right thing to do! I was not insulting or disrespectful but offered a stern talk on the principles of leadership to get them to admit they heard the pleas of the majority for full legalization. Senators are supposed to be tough and proven leaders and their personal feelings should have never surfaced but if that’s what it took to get them to recognize what the majority wanted it was worth it and mission accomplished for everyone. This incident was more of a case of “poor acceptance” of the truth because I do respect them and I still have very high regards for Sen. Sixto.
I never asked the senators to stop the hearings, which is why readers shouldn’t believe everything in an unbalanced secondhand story as the reporter wasn’t there and I was never contacted to give my version—it was the senators’ story, not mine. What I said was we now know what is full legalization and that they should be asking how to implement legalization because the how is just as important as the what. Can we exercise our right and ability to think and offer solutions on how? Some of the testimonies clearly ask for the opportunity to vote on the issue but how can people vote appropriately on something they have never seen in action with their own eyes.
These hearings alone cannot educate people on everything about legalization, which is why I was proposing the moratorium period so voters could get fully educated and informed first-hand for three years by seeing for themselves what legalization is like before they vote. This is really a scientific approach to the social and economic experiment of full legalization. We also need to determine if we want a government-run industry or a privately owned and operated industry. I have research that proves we need a government operation, at least until marijuana is decriminalized by the feds, which I will share with the public and the senators in the next hearing on Tinian.
This is really a simple matter of what to do and how to do it but they were manipulating it for sake of playing safe politics with medical use only when we need leaders who are not scared to lead us in a totally new direction. Heck, even though I was against the casino I now support it because that is what the majority want and I have to admire Gov. Eloy Inos for not being scared and for doing something that might even be potentially great for the CNMI in the face of protest—he was even elected governor for his efforts. I was just pushing the senators to do something great by championing the entire issue for all the people and for the economic prosperity of our Commonwealth.
If the committee had recognized the fact that the majority of testimonies were leaning toward full legalization, I would have never been pushing for them to do so. Thank you, Sen. Palacios, for finally acknowledging the committee is considering full legalization. We the people who were at the hearings have learned that full legalization is better, safer, and easier to help our economy and everyone more. Full legalization will also eliminate the existing marijuana crimes and the new marijuana crimes will clearly prevail under medical use alone. As I said in the hearing, no one is against medical use, which is why they wanted to stay on medical use, but we did not hire them to play safe as they are the point persons for the CNMI because this is our government and not theirs. Laws should reflect what the people want even if it is not what the senators originally intended. The whole purpose of a public hearing to hear what the people want to do about legalization without restrictions on what they can say or recommend!
As for the commenters who seem to think I am hurting their cause for full legalization, you need to know that full legalization might not even be on the table. My persistence and speaking up for what is clearly the majority in the hearings and in our society who want full legalization is the main reason the full legalization movement is alive. I know more about this issue than the senators so they should be listening to me and even be thankful they had someone in our society who had really done their homework on this issue. Sen. Sixto’s focus should be championing the entire issue and letting the votes take care of the results. If they will champion this issue for all the people they will be re-elected. Just ask Gov. Inos, who championed the casino! We need the senators to champion full legalization and not give us a medical band-aid that won’t even work for most of the sick without insurance because they can’t even afford to buy marijuana even if it was legal!
Ambrose M Bennett, a former teachers’ representative on the Board of Education, is an advocate for the full legalization of marijuana use in the Commonwealth.