Senate panel holds public hearing on marijuana bill

ABOUT 30 residents showed up for the public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Government and Law on Tuesday night in the Senate chamber to discuss a bill that proposes to regulate cannabis in the CNMI.

Of the 12 community members who spoke, 11 expressed support for Senate Bill 20-62.

Only one, Mariano Fajardo, said he was still not convinced that using cannabis for recreational or medicinal use is safe for everyone.

Another resident, Jack Camacho Muna, said his stepdaughter is suffering from cerebral epilepsy, adding that he wants her to have a chance to improve her condition through medicinal marijuana.

However, he added, “my question is what will happen to us if this becomes law and then the feds come after us?”

He urged lawmakers “to look into that also, to consider that also, before we implement something like this.”

Ron Smith said he supports the bill but added that some of its language should be corrected to remove “technical errors.”

Carol Hosono and Keoni Hosono also support the bill, saying that cannabis “worked like magic” when used by a family member who was diagnosed with cancer several years ago.

Reuben Chong, lead clinician of the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation, Program, said he supports the bill for medication purposes, but added that it needs to be regulated properly. He said if it’s not implemented correctly, the CNMI will just be creating another prescription epidemic in the community.

Marissa Ada, Dr. John Doyle, Martin Teregeyo, Jerry Henley and Gary Sword also spoke in favor of the bill.

Ada said she supports the medicinal use of cannabis for patients while Teregeyo said it will give locals a chance to grow and farm cannabis and create a new industry in the CNMI.

Sword said it is time for the people of the CNMI to wake up and understand that they need to be brave, bold and take control of their future. He said legalizing marijuana is one way of doing it as it will help boost the local economy.

Sword said in the states that legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, the result was “explosive growth.”

Sen. Sixto Igisomar, the bill’s author, thanked the members of the public who participated in the hearing and submitted their comments and suggestions.

If passed by the Legislature, the bill will be put on the ballot so voters can approve or reject it.

Igisomar said the bill will only be implemented in a senatorial district that approves it.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Government and Law, Senate Vice President Steve Mesngon, said after conducting similar public hearings on Rota and Tinian, they will conduct another public hearing on Saipan and encourage more people to participate and engage in the discussions.

Sen. Frank Cruz said the reason why an earlier version of the bill wasn’t passed was due to an apparent lack of public interest.

He encourages members of the public to participate and let their opinions be heard.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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