AG: Marijuana bill has 1 ‘problematic’ provision

ATTORNEY General Edward Manibusan said the marijuana bill passes constitutional muster except for a provision that requires voters’ approval.

He told the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Government and Law that the bill’s Section 102, “Approval by Voters,” is “problematic and should be amended or removed entirely.”

“Section 102,” Manibusan said in a legal opinion, “takes a novel and likely illegal approach to how [the bill] S.B. 20-62 would become law. Section 102 provides that the ‘Act shall not become law upon its passage.’ Instead this Act shall be placed on the ballot as a ballot measure to be voted on.”

Edward Manibusan

The ballot measure would not include the full text of the bill, but simply the question, “Should the Commonwealth legalize and regulate marijuana by approving the CNMI cannabis Act of 2018?”

The AG said Section 102 “also provides that only a simple majority of the voters are required to approve the question for the bill to become law. This process is inconsistent with the Commonwealth Constitution.”

He said the “Commonwealth Constitution provides two separate mechanisms for the enactment of legislation; one is through the standard legislative process and the second is through voter initiative. In the standard process, the House and the Senate must both vote with majorities to pass a piece of legislation. (See Commonwealth Constitution, Article II Section 5 [c]) This approved legislation is then signed by the presiding officer of the house where the bill originated and transmitted to the governor for his signature. (Article II, Section 5[a]) The governor must then sign the bill, veto it or take no action and allow the bill to become law by virtue of inaction. There is no exception for a bill to not go to the governor for approval or veto. Similarly, there is no constitutional mechanism for the Legislature to bind its hands with a popular vote.”

Manibusan said “the second way for a law to be created in the Commonwealth is through voter initiative. For a voter initiative to occur, a petition must be brought to and approved by the attorney general. The petition shall be signed by at least 20 percent of the persons qualified to vote in the Commonwealth. (Article IX Section 1 [a]) The entire bill must be placed on the ballot and will only become law if approved by two-thirds of the voters. (Article IX Section 1 [d])”

The AG said S.B. 20-62 follows neither the standard legislative process nor the constitutionally prescribed voter initiative method.

“The bill either inhibits the constitutionally mandated review of the law by the governor or it does not follow the proper procedure, ballot language and number of votes to pass as an initiative. As such, Section 102 of S.B. 20-62 needs to be removed or amended,” the AG said.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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