US pro-cannabis group backs local pot bill

Cannabis bill goes back to the House committee

The U.S. advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project has thrown its support behind Senate Bill 20-62 SS1, introduced by Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) to regulate cannabis use in the CNMI.

MPP, the largest group in the U.S. mainland pushing for marijuana reforms, is hoping to increase public support for non-coercive marijuana policies while also pushing for states to change or loosen its laws to either reduce or remove penalties for medicinal and non-medicinal use of cannabis.

S.B. 20-62, however, goes back to the House Judicial and Governmental Operations committee, chaired by Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan), as there are sections in the bill that pertains to taxing and other revenue generation, which must start at the lower chamber.

Blanco said he and his colleagues have heard many in the public push for the bill’s passage but “I ask for your indulgence to allow the [JGO] committee to ensure proper language is inserted that is within the bounds of the law.”

“I look forward to making the amendments and placing the bill back on the floor during the next [House] session. In the meantime, I still welcome input on your thoughts on the bill,” he added.

MPP state policies director Karen O’Keefe, in a letter to the House JGO committee, cited six points on the impact of regulating marijuana for medical and adult use.

She said prohibition on cannabis has failed, just like what happened in the 1920s.

Possession and use of cannabis is illegal under the laws of the CNMI and in 41 other states in the mainland.

“Yet, this prohibition has not made cannabis disappear. In fact, despite the vast sums spent on hundreds of thousands or arrests made in the U.S. every year, prohibition hasn’t stopped adults or youth from accessing cannabis,” said O’Keefe. “When the federal government first effectively prohibited cannabis in 1937, relatively few Americans had even heard of it. By 2015, 44 percent of Americans admitted to having tried it, including three of the last four presidents.”

O’Keefe said regulation proves to be better as several states has already implemented it. “As it became increasingly obvious that prohibition was not working, states began to choose a more sensible approach—taxing and regulating cannabis similar to alcohol.”

Colorado and Washington were the first two states that taxed and regulated cannabis. Alaska and Oregon followed two years later, while California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada followed in 2016.

Vermont recently legalized home cultivation and possession of cannabis, but is now thinking of also taxing and regulating it.

O’Keefe pointed out that regulating cannabis has created jobs, with Colorado employing 38,000 people who are licensed to work directly in the new industry.

O’Keefe’s other points said that regulation will protect cannabis consumers while improving public health; its use is considered safer compared to alcohol, tobacco, and prescription medicines; much of the opposition is solely based on myths and other misconceptions; and the bill would result in sensible, humane policies, and a well-regulated system.

MD: US pro-cannabis group backs local ‘weed’ bill

KW: marijuana, cannabis, regulation, legalize, Colorado, Senate Bill 20-62, Sixto K. Igisomar, Ivan A. Blanco, Karen O’Keefe, Marijuana Policy Project

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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