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Last updateSat, 23 Mar 2019 12am







    Friday, March 22, 2019-12:18:26A.M.






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House panel OK’s marijuana bill

THE House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations has approved the marijuana-legalization bill and is recommending its passage.

The House panel conducted a public hearing on Tuesday in the House chamber to discuss Senate Bill 20-62 which will regulate cannabis in the CNMI.

Seven people testified in support of the measure which was introduced by Sen. Sixto Igisomar. They included Dr. John Doyle, Gerry Hemley, Jim Rayphand and Katelyn Borja.

The committee chairman, Rep. Ivan Blanco, and members Rep. Frank Aguon, Rep. Joe Itibus and House Minority Leader Edmund Villagomez then voted to endorse the measure’s passage.

Blanco said the bill will now go to the House so members can vote on it.

A long-time marijuana-legalization advocate, Hemley said: “It is for economic reasons and medical benefits that I support this bill. It went through a lot of research and if acted into law and regulated well, it will encourage responsible growers. People who want to plant marijuana at home will be responsible for making sure minors will not have access to it. People will also have a choice whether to use it personally or commercially. When we say for personal use, it includes medication.”

Hemley said he supports the bill to ensure safe and legal access to medical cannabis for therapeutic uses and research; to better protect children and prohibit the possession or sale of marijuana to minors; to capture a new revenue stream that will provide funding to the CNMI and support worthwhile projects; and create jobs and boost the local economy through the production, processing and retail sales of marijuana.

The bill will also allow for the creation of a commission whose task is “to establish a strict system to regulate the use and distribution of marijuana” in the CNMI.

The commission will have nine members appointed by the governor: five from Saipan, and two each from Rota and Tinian.

The marijuana bill was modeled after Oregon’s Control, Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act of 2014.

According to its proponents, Senate Bill 20-62 is designed to allow for the personal, medical and industrial use of marijuana by responsible adults over 21 years of age.

The bill does not allow public consumption which will remain prohibited. But under the bill, an adult will be allowed to possess, transport, purchase, consume and share up to one ounce of non-medical marijuana.

The bill stated that driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal and employers still have the right to decide policies for their places of businesses, and landlords will still have the right to ban possession of marijuana on their property.