Marianas Variety

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    Tuesday, November 21, 2017-2:53:22P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

OPINION: 33 problems with SB 20-62, Cannabis Act (conclusion)

THESenate JGL Committee has made their choice as to what the Bill should entail and I can only wait-to-see the final draft.

I do know that when I testified in the last Committee Hearing I did ask if there were any questions about the 33 problems I raised. But there was not a single question which was a genuine signal that they either used the concerns to make the Bill better or they threw them in the trash. I’m sure most readers had questions about the concerns I raised in the first two parts of my opinion on this Bill but not one question from the Senate which literally means “Houston, we have a problem.” But the good thing about the transparency I am providing is that we will all see what the Committee DID or FAILED to do once the Draft is made public in and the people are educated about it in a Public Forum like it should be done BEFORE a final vote, if they care how you feel.

But the entire Senate must vote on this Bill, the House of Representatives whose politics is different from the Senate for sure, and the Governor so it still has a ways to go before its finality. My biggest fear is that the people will be given an Initiative “full of flaws” literally to vote on and won’t know WHAT it is until it is Law. When I first approached to Senate when the Bill was filed I was told, “we are just going to pass it like it is and you can try to get the changes you want when it gets to the House of Representatives” which was signal to anyone with common sense that the fix was already in and that I was wasting my time which will prove to be true if there aren’t any major changes. But I continued anyway because it was the right thing and I want the people decide on how the Bill should be and what they think about the Senate and Senators.

The LACK of education about the Bill BEFORE it becomes a law will keep voters literally IN THE DARK until it becomes law and then its toooo late to do anything about it. Voters will have no real choice or say just futile comments. Having the Board of Elections do education on the Initiative after the fact is really a slap in the face of voters. Take it or leave it voters! FYI readers, the fact that there is NO “entity” to handle the TWO marijuana industries just a commission inside of Commerce with a director is not sufficient to control and enforce the industry and segregate all the money transactions that must be done to avoid Federal conflicts. The idea that Senatorial Districts can go it alone with no real “central governing controls or authority” is absolute-madness. No other state has approached legalization with this backwards approach as it’s OK for a Senatorial District to “reject the industry” but they can’t go it alone. Should only one or two of the Senatorial Districts approve this Initiative’s approach it will only serve to create small Marijuana Cartels to supply the other island(s) causing all kind of criminal behavior on all the islands! I have been yelling one people one direction for almost twenty years and they still don’t get IT! Senatorial districting an Industry is also going to cause all kinds of political fights over the money along with the political adverse side-effects of governing by the Central Government. There is much more to be concerned about in this Bill and hopefully voters will DEMAND to know what is in this Bill BEFORE it becomes law so they can at least have a chance to influence real changes to make it a better law for EVERYONE in the CNMI.

The 33 Problems with SB 20-62 & the Solutions: the last 12

I have summarized these issues for the newspaper but I have additional facts, examples and rational to support the arguments that I presented to the Senate on behalf of the many VOTERS who agree with me.

XXII. Section 154. Use of Marijuana in Public Place Prohibited. Outdoor and/or segregated conditions for Tourist sites and certain Public Businesses and Activities are part of the Cannabis Tourism Marketing and this law would handicap or handcuff our Cannabis Industry as written. Locals and Tourists are going to light-up in certain public spots and at tourist sites anyway so we may as well set the proper conditions rather than creating a law to create criminals!

XXIII. Section 156. Unlawful Marijuana Extraction; Penalties. The Bill does not delineate as to who can perform the Extractions and under what conditions as extracts are a big part of the marijuana industry’s sales. Extracts are the strongest from of marijuana and dangerous to make.

XXIV. Section 159. Duty of Law Enforcement to Enforce and Inform the Attorney General. Enforcement is being pass-on to DPS. The enforcement of the Marijuana Industry should be the responsibility of the Governing entity or agency. DPS should only be a “support service” because DPS is already swamped with REAL crimes and this would only serve to make it worse as one of the main purposes of legalization was to RELIEVE policing responsibilities not increase them.

XXV. Sections 166, 167,168, 169, 170 All of the Unlawful USE, Manufacturing, Delivery Procession, Taxes and Fees need to be reassessed or placed in separate Legislation or become a Policy by the Commission as Taxes and Fees CHANGE over time.

XXVI. Section 171. Local Control is not an option as this should be “all or nothing.” The Cannabis Industry cannot adequately be “governed, controlled and enforced” under the conditions of Local Control. The Mayor and Municipal Council should have the power to determine where and when marijuana can be used but not the power to implement legalization on their own.

XXVII. Section 172. Work Force Participation by U.S. Citizens and CNMI and U.S.   There needs to be an exception for medical users who can’t grow their own so they can sponsor an “alien worker” on a “part-time basis” who is already employed to grow for them.

XXVIII. Oversight: There is no mechanism in the Bill that will allow people who can’t grow in the village to rent a farm lot to grow their marijuana. The entire farming issue was not addressed.

XXIX. Oversight: The Licensing for HEMP Industry, the critical licensing of 3 million for each of the four licenses that I recommend which is the intended source of funding for the Government to create the infrastructure for the Cannabis Industry was not included in this Bill. Oversight on Licensing as there is no limit on Dispensary Licensing: The Bill as written allows for anyone who can purchase a license to open a Dispensary meaning we could literally have dozens of Dispensaries all over the islands that can’t be “controlled with enforcement” by DPS. Limit Dispensaries to Hotels, Resorts, Golf Courses and State Stores on Saipan (2), Tinian (1), Rota (1).

XXX. Oversight: The 18 – 20 age group not adequately addressed in this Bill for usage and punishment. You may want to consider “parental approval” to help in dealing with the 18- 20 age group as this group could be our biggest challenge when it comes to legal usage like in other states.

XXXI. Oversight: There is nothing in the Bill to address and fund the need for additional security applications at the Airport to insure NO Marijuana leaves the CNMI and for the collection of ALL citations. It has already become a problem collecting citations from Tourists drivers who just leave and the number of Tourist drivers plus the future illegal Pot smoking citations are only going to increase.

XXXII. Oversight: The Amnesty Period to develop the Industry of Marijuana Strains was totally left out of the Bill. Once marijuana is made legal we need a Transition Period. One of the main reasons Guam is having a problem getting started is because they didn’t have an Amnesty Period.

XXXIII. Oversight: The Budget Process re-enforces the need for an “entity and the segregation of monies from the Cannabis Industry” which was not adequately addressed. The entire Cannabis Industry must be “insolated on a peninsular” figuratively from the rest of the Government due to the facts that we are violators of Federal Law and because it is a cash only Industry that cannot “co-mingle revenues” with Local or Federal Funds.

Given the treatment I got from the Committee with NO discussion on the concerns I raised and the fact they didn’t have a single question, I don’t expect much as one of the biggest problems of the CNMI’s leadership still remains which is the “outsider resentment syndrome.” The idea of the Feds or anyone not local CANNOT leading or dictating CNMI issues even if they are RIGHT is the sad pathetic TRUTH and the Devil is in the details. I know many of the concerns I raised have justifiable MERIT and I can only hope the entire Legislature hasn’t fallen into this abyss of prejudice that leads to nowhere and even total failure. As Dr. King might say, “if not me then who and if not now, then when” so I say “if not the Senate, then the House of Reps., and If not the House of Reps., then the Governor can fix the Bill to be proper and fitting for ALL the people BEFORE it becomes Law!