Marianas Variety

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    Monday, December 9, 2019-2:24:39P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Public support for the CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018

(Press Release) — Public sentiment on the legalization of marijuana is shifting in favor of the once highly stigmatized plant with many CNMI residents expressing support of a regulated market for the responsible adult use of marijuana.

The World Health Organization attributes the CNMI with the second highest marijuana usage rates in the world with an estimated 22.5 percent (approximately 1 in 4) people either growing or consuming marijuana for medical, agricultural, or personal purposes.

According to Jim Rayphand, the executive director for the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems Inc., “We see first-hand people from all walks of life —many of who are manamko’ — who rely on marijuana as the only viable option to them in lieu of expensive prescription drugs. Some cancer patients or other people suffering with gout or other pain-inducing conditions, for instance, use marijuana (whether it be in the form of a cigarette or as a tea that they brew) for pain relief and/or as an appetite enhancer when they can’t otherwise eat. In some cases, we know of individuals with mental illness who use it for its calming effect again in lieu of expensive psychotropic drugs (most of which have unending lists of negative side-effects).”

Gerry HemleyGerry Hemley

He goes on to say, “Personally, I think it’s sad that in the midst of the pain and suffering that comes with the realities of terminal illnesses or other disabling conditions, a person has to add the fear of incarceration or stigmatization for accessing the natural healing qualities of a plant.”

Meanwhile, reports of problems associated with marijuana use are close to none. One local resident who asked for anonymity points out that, “If it was legal, I would get rid of my prescription drugs. I know our people have been using this thing for a long time. It’s just that I don’t want to break the law.”

Gerry Palacios Hemley of Sensible CNMI, a local advocacy group says, “The true essence of legalization has always been to allow accessible cannabis for those who will use it for medical or non-medical purposes without the fear of arrest, harassment and discrimination.”

Subsequently, a recent Gallup poll reported that 58 percent of Americans favored the legalization of marijuana — tying 2013 for the highest acceptance rate recorded in the 46 years that the international pollster has conducted marijuana surveys. That acceptance rate, which was 12 percent in 1969 and a little more than 30 percent in 2000, accelerated after Colorado and Washington voted in 2012 to legalize marijuana for adult use.

Presently 29 U.S. states, including the island territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, have legalized marijuana for medical purposes since 1996. Furthermore, eight states, including Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana for personal use since 2012. The number of states and territories that elected to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol is expected to continue to grow as public support for marijuana legalization, nationally, is currently around 60 percent and rising. In total, there are now about 45 states, including the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico that have some type of law in favor of cannabis.

Hemley concludes, “We have to allow the legal option for persons to exercise their fundamental right of choice as to how they use cannabis be it medically, therapeutically, recreationally, socially, religiously or spiritually or agriculturally. In fact, the war on drugs over the past 80 years has been a proven failure and the only way we can progress is to take responsibility by acknowledging where current policies have failed. SB 20-62, the CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018 is our opportunity to progress in that direction for a healthier and better CNMI. Now, all that needs to be done is to place the question on the 2018 ballot and let the CNMI people decide.”

Hemley reminds the public that there will be a Senate JGL committee meeting for S.B. 20-62 on Oct. 10 at 9 a.m. in the Senate chamber on Capital Hill. The public is encouraged to attend and listen or they can submit their verbal or written testimony. Public hearings on Saipan, Tinian and Rota will most likely take place in October with dates and times to be announced when available. Hemley states, “Legalization will not happen by itself. We as a community need to engage the issue proactively if we want this to happen. The time to act is now.”

Per states that have set up regulated markets for marijuana use for responsible adult consumers, there have been some real and significant benefits to public health, safety, and quality of life for all residents. These benefits include; (1) Alternative treatment for pain and suffering for those afflicted with debilitated illnesses, such as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, cancer, epilepsy, and a host of other conditions, many of which are not effectively treated with synthetic prescription medications. In this respect, marijuana has become a life-saving and enhancing medical alternative; (2) A 25 percent reduction in accidental overdoses, addiction, and abuse, as medical marijuana has provided a safer alternative to far more harmful and dangerous prescription narcotics, providing evidence that approving the responsible adult use of marijuana can combat the deadly opioid crisis currently experienced in the United States. Furthermore, there is real evidence to suggest that allowing for the adult use of marijuana will help to reduce the level of methamphetamine or ice use and abuse in the CNMI; (3) Decreases in youth access to marijuana and usage rates among the youth; (4) Decreases in violent crime as marijuana is manufactured and sold in approved facilities by licensed businesses; (5) Decreases in negative impacts as marijuana becomes a popular and much safer alternative to alcohol and other recreational drugs; and (6) Substantial revenues generated by the growth, processing, and sale of marijuana and hemp products, with the introduction of the legal marijuana industry that has created over 100,000 new jobs, nationally, providing funding for many government and social programs.