|Photo: Saipan Realty|
|Can you say marijuana tourism? As soon as Saipan’s voters get around to legalizing marijuana — which they’ll soon have a chance to do — the stoner dollars will start pouring in, mine included.|
Imagine this: a tropical Pacific island paradise where weed is legal — and no passport is required to visit from the United States. While that dream may have just suffered a setback, it lives on and may soon be put up for a popular vote.
A House committee on Monday recommended killing a bill which would have legalized marijuana for all uses in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), which includes Saipan, Tinian, Ascuncion and Rota islands in the Pacific. But the bill will be reintroduced as a legislative initiative to allow the people to vote on it, according to its sponsor.
Rep. Stanley Torres (I-Saipan), author of CNMI House Bill 17-47, said Monday he is “disappointed” that the committee decided to recommend killing his bill, reports Haidee V. Eugenio of the Saipan Tribune.
|Photo: The Saipan Blog|
|Rep. Stanley Torres: “I have found that the time has come to legalize the use and possession of marijuana for all purposes”|
”I believe my bill still has silent majority support,” Torres said. “But I am going to reintroduce it in the form of a legislative initiative, to directly ask people about it.”
Torres said his office now has a draft legislative initiative to legalize marijuana for medicinal and all other uses in the CNMI. But, he said, he may not be able to pre-file the initiative in time for Tuesday’s session.
“After considerable discussion and deliberation on the bill, your committee recommends that House Bill No. 17-47 be filed by the House,” said the Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Rep. Teresita A. Santos (I-Rota).
The committee had held public hearings on the marijuana legalization bill on Saipan, Tinian and Rota.
Santos’s committee has also “reached a consensus that the author will reintroduce his updated legislation and file it as a House legislative initiative,” the statement said.
Torres’s Legalization of Marijuana Act of 2010 is the first legislation of its kind ever to be introduced in the CNMI.
The bill will legalize marijuana possession and use, which is now being done in some states and foreign countries, according to Torres.
By removing the legal restrictions on marijuana, the quantity and supply of cannabis would diminish the crime and violence associated with attempts to obtain or or protect it by use of force and violence, Torres said.
“The legal use and possession of medical marijuana that currently exists in approximately 14 jurisdictions of the United States provides legal justification for legalization, not just for medicinal use, but for all purposes as set for herein,” Torres said in his bill.
“Rather than engaging in a lengthy unresolved debate on the merits of restricting marijuana to just medicinal use, this [bill]intends to make marijuana legal for all the positive reasons that it provides,” Torres said in a speech before formally introducing the bill.
“I have found that the time has come to legalize the use and possession of marijuana for all purposes and to remove any and all associated penalties,” Torres said. (Damn, is this guy eligible to run for President of the United States?)
The CNMI Department of Public Health and the Public School System have already expressed their opposition to the legalization of marijuana use and possession.
Legalized marijuana in a protectorate of the United States like Saipan/CNMI would, as pointed out last April by NORML’s “Radical” Russ Belville, mean “some really cool new vacation spots that don’t require a passport and checking through Customs.”
If, like me, you’re a convicted felon in the United States, you’re already well aware what that means. An exotic, “foreign” vacation spot is now available to you, even though you can’t get a passport! (Yes, I know: felons can get passports — with lots of money and good lawyers. I’m a felon. I can’t get a passport. Capiche?)
“These tiny economies could certainly use the tourism revenue and can’t really afford to be spending limited police and court funds on responsible adult cannabis consumers,” Belville added.