Saipan — Proponents of marijuana legalization in the CNMI are still facing an uphill battle.
Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar introduced Senate Bill 19-106, which seeks to decriminalize marijuana and make it accessible for medicinal, personal and commercial use. Igisomar was hoping the people would get to vote in a referendum but his legislative measure didn’t make the ballot. Due to time constraints, the 19th Legislature was unable to act on the proposal, which needed to become law before it could be put on the ballot.
Sensible CNMI, a newly-formed group that advocates legalization of marijuana, and Tinian Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas, support the two-term senator’s advocacy.
Sensible CNMI said regulating and taxing marijuana use in the CNMI would have a positive impact on the community as evident in states where medical marijuana has been legalized.
Igisomar and supporters of his proposed measure are advocating for responsible marijuana use through similar regulations and taxation that apply on alcohol, betel nut, cigarettes and tobacco, therefore preventing minors or those under 18 years old access to it.
Igisomar, chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, said he and his supporters plan on launching a public information campaign to allay the critics’ concerns. “We need to remove in people’s minds that one would just smoke it. I’m talking about boiling it and drinking it as a tea. People should be reminded that marijuana is an herb and you can boil the
leaves or the root and drink it. It could really help people with chronic diseases and epilepsy,” he said.
Igsomar said the prohibitive cost of medicinal marijuana in the CNMI has prompted him to push for its legalization. Local pharmacies sell Marinol, a prescription drug constituent of medical cannabis, which costs between $200 and $800. This amount is fortune for those who don’t have insurance.
Catholic groups oppose the legalization of marijuana, warning it would contribute to the prevalent crystal meth problem and casino gambling in the community.