Pacific Island Almost Legalizes Marijuana, But Chickens Out


Photo: EUCON
Can you say marijuana tourism? As soon as Saipan legalizes marijuana — which it almost did this week — the stoner dollars will start pouring in, mine included.

​Ahhh… Sugar white beaches and sugar-frosted sticky buds.
A tropical Pacific island paradise almost just legalized weed — and no passport is required to visit from the United States, since it is a protectorate. While that stony dream may have just suffered a setback, it lives on and may soon be put up for a popular vote.
The House passed the marijuana legalization bill on Wednesday, but at least five of nine senators are lukewarm to the idea of legalizing marijuana in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), which includes Saipan, Tinian, Ascuncion and Rota islands in the Pacific. This probably means the bill is doomed, reports Haidee V. Eugenio at 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”

​House Bill 17-45, sponsored by Rep. Stanley Torres (I-Saipan), passed the House Wednesday on a 10-7 vote with one abstention.
The bill would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana use for medicinal and recreational purposes in the CNMI, one of a list of revenue-generating bills pending in the 17th Legislature for the cash-strapped island nation.
Senate President Paul A. Manglona (R-Rota) said on Friday that he does not support the legalization bill.
“I don’t want to put our children at risk,” he said. “Our children are not for sale because in a way, this bill wants to generate revenue. I think that the message is clear.”
Manglona sanctimoniously called on House members to instead work with the Senate’s ad-hoc Committee on Tax Policy and Enforcement Review “on exploring different ways to effectively enforce tax laws and generate revenue” that are not related to allowing cannabis.
“Before we could even get to the idea of marijuana legalization, let’s exhaust the first 99 ideas to generate revenue,” Manglona said, sounding just as dumb as many American politicians. “I cannot speak for the other senators on what they want to do with the bill but I personally do not support this bill.”
Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian) said he does not support the marijuana legalization, either, and offered three weak and threadbare reasons.
“First, I am a retired police officer,” Cruz said. “I spent 20 years as a police officer and it is not right for me to support this kind of legalization.” Surprise, surprise.
Second, Cruz claimed their is no guarantee that passing the bill would generate needed revenue for the government. Yeah, he really said that.
And third, Cruz claimed that legalizing pot would put at risk millions of dollars in federal funds that the CNMI is “guaranteed” to lose, citing the U.S. federal funds received by the Department of Public Health, the Criminal Justice Planning Agency and the public school system, among other agencies.
“I’m not going to support a bill that cannot guarantee revenue,” Cruz said. “I also am not going to support a bill that will let the CNMI lose millions in funds that are guaranteed to come our way every year.”
Sen. Jovita Taimanao (I-Rota) joined the clueless chorus, claiming she believed the risks are greater than the benefits that could be gained from legalizing cannabis in the CNMI.
“If they’re saying this bill will generate revenue for the CNMI, how much?” she said. “Where is the study, where is the statistics [sic]to support that? What I know for sure is that DPL [Department of Public Health] alone may lose $10 million in federal funds if we legalize marijuana use here.”
The House Committee on Natural Resources said enactment of the bill into law “will possibly result in the loss of federal funds but at the same time the Commonwealth government will generate funds through taxation.”
The question should be put before CNMI voters through a legislative or popular initiative, according to Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian).
“Let the majority decide,” Hofschneider said. “Personally, I am not in support of it.”
The bill would allow people 21 and older to “possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use.”
It also permits the regulation and taxation of commercial production and sale of cannabis, but prohibits possession on school grounds and prohibits use in the presence of minors.