Marijuana Could Be Legalized In U.S. Territory | Marijuana

Marijuana Could Be Legalized In U.S. Territory


Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada might not be the only places to vote on marijuana legalization this fall.

If a Republican senator gets his way, voters in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. territory, will also soon have a chance to end cannabis prohibition.

On Tuesday, CNMI Sen. Sixto Igisomar pre-filed a bill that, if approved, would place a measure to legalize marijuana before the Pacific islands’ voters on November 8.

The legislation provides for a fully legal and regulated recreational market for adults over 21 years of age and allows medical cannabis access for people with doctors’ recommendations.

The CNMI Department of Commerce would license and tax production, processing, wholesale and retail sales of cannabis. The resulting revenue would be used to support drug treatment and prevention services, school infrastructure projects and the commonwealth’s fiscally troubled pension program. A quarter of the revenue would be put into the general fund.

The legislation would also allow individuals to grow up to six mature and 25 immature cannabis plants at home.

In a (perhaps intentional, perhaps unintentional) nod to marijuana enthusiasts and 4/20 observants, the bill directs the government to finalize legal regulations and begin accepting license applications by April 20, 2017.

Before the measure can appear before voters, it first has to clear CNMI’s nine-member Senate and 20-member House of Representatives and then be signed by Gov. Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres (R).

The last day for the CNMI Election Commission to receive items for this year’s ballot is August 10, so Igisomar, who previously served as the commonwealth’s secretary of commerce, is scrambling to move things along sooner rather than later.

“I sent an email to the House of Representative Chairwoman on Health and Welfare to review the act and see if her committee can meet her Senate counterpart first thing next week and to see if we can get anything done within a week,” he told

If the bill is approved after August 10, the question would appear before voters in 2018.

Lawrence Duponcheel of the activist group Sensible CNMI said in an email that the bill “has given this movement the traction it needs.”

He predicted that legalization would greatly benefit the commonwealth of just over 50,000 residents. “The drug war has been a public policy nightmare for the Marianas Islands over the last few decades, ultimately pushing citizens towards much harsher drugs like meth and alcohol,” he said.

In its opening pages, the legislation lists several goals:

Eliminate the problems caused by the prohibition and uncontrolled manufacture, delivery, and possession of marijuana

Protect the safety, welfare, health, and peace of the people of this Commonwealth by prioritizing the Commonwealth’s limited law enforcement resources in the most effective, consistent, and rational way

Allow each island to determine what is appropriate for its people, land, and economy

Prevent revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels

The bill also specifies that it is modeled on Oregon’s cannabis laws. “The Commonwealth Judiciary, the Attorney General, Commerce, and any other government entity of the Commonwealth shall consider case precedent in Oregon to be persuasive when interpreting this Act,” it says.

In 2010, the CNMI House of Representatives approved a marijuana legalization bill by a vote of 10-7, but it later died in the Senate, and the commonwealth’s then-governor said he was only willing to support medical cannabis.

Last year, Igisomar introduced a separate bill focused solely on medical cannabis but it was stalled due to “local crisis” that required lawmakers’ attention, he said, including a powerful typhoon and the rupture of CNMI’s sole undersea fiber optic cable connecting its communications to the rest of the world.

Read Igisomar’s new bill on the full legalization of marijuana below.

[scribd id=319545528 key=key-ltKRQEuFUgTB2cm3mdHl mode=scroll]

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)


  1. William Clark on

    No one should promote the canard that marijuana is dangerous, like pharmaceutical drugs. Or even that it is a ‘drug’, except in Merriam-Webster’s third and broadest definition, as something which affects the mind. By that definition, religion and television (‘the plug-in drug’) should also be included. In truth marijuana is a medicinal herb, cultivated, bred, and evolved in service to human beings over thousands of years.

    “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting people to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, break up their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” –John Ehrlichman

    Prohibition of marijuana is a premise built on a tissue of lies: Concern For Public Safety. Our new laws save hundreds of lives every year, on our highways alone. In November of 2011, a study at the University of Colorado found that in the thirteen states that decriminalized marijuana between 1990 and 2009, traffic fatalities have dropped by nearly nine percent—now nearly ten percent in Michigan—more than the national average, while sales of beer went flat by five percent. No wonder Big Alcohol opposes it. Ambitious, unprincipled, profit-driven undertakers might be tempted too.

    In 2012 a study released by 4AutoinsuranceQuote revealed that marijuana users are safer drivers than non-marijuana users, as “the only significant effect that marijuana has on operating a motor vehicle is slower driving”, which “is arguably a positive thing”. Despite occasional accidents, eagerly reported by police-blotter ‘journalists’ as ‘marijuana-related’, a mix of substances was often involved. Alcohol, most likely, and/or prescription drugs, nicotine, caffeine, meth, cocaine, heroin, and a trace of the marijuana passed at a party ten days ago. However, on the whole, as revealed in big-time, insurance-industry stats, within the broad swath of mature, experienced consumers, slower and more cautious driving shows up in significant numbers. A recent Federal study has reached the same conclusion. And legalization should improve those numbers further.

    No one has ever died from an overdose of marijuana. It’s the most benign ‘substance’ in history. Most people—and particularly patients who medicate with marijuana–use it in place of prescription drugs or alcohol.

    Marijuana has many benefits, most of which are under-reported or never mentioned in American newspapers. Research at the University of Saskatchewan indicates that, unlike alcohol, cocaine, heroin, or Nancy (“Just say, ‘No!’”) Reagan’s beloved nicotine, marijuana is a neuroprotectant that actually encourages brain-cell growth. Researchers in Spain (the Guzman study) and other countries have discovered that it also has tumor-shrinking, anti-carcinogenic properties. These were confirmed by the 30-year Tashkin population study at UCLA.

    Drugs are man-made, cooked up in labs, for the sake of patents and the profits gained by them. Often useful, but typically burdened with cautionary notes and lists of side effects as long as one’s arm. ‘The works of Man are flawed.’

    Marijuana is a medicinal herb, the most benign and versatile in history. “Cannabis” in Latin, and “kanah bosm” in the old Hebrew scrolls, quite literally the Biblical Tree of Life, used by early Christians to treat
    everything from skin diseases to deep pain and despair. Why despair? Consider the current medical term for cannabis sativa: a “mood elevator”. . . as opposed to antidepressants, which ‘flatten out’ emotions, leaving patients numb to both depression and joy.

    The very name, “Christ” translates as “the anointed one”. Well then, anointed with what? It’s a fair question. And it wasn’t holy water, friends. Holy water came into wide use in the Middle Ages. In Biblical times, it was used by a few tribes of Greek pagans. And Christ was neither Greek nor pagan.

    Medicinal oil, for the Prince of Peace. A formula from the Biblical era has been rediscovered. It specifies a strong dose of oil from kanah bosom, ‘the fragrant cane’ of a dozen uses: ink, paper, rope, nutrition. . . . It was clothing on their backs and incense in their temples. And a ‘skinful’ of medicinal oil could certainly calm one’s nerves, imparting a sense of benevolence and connection with all living things. No wonder that the ‘anointed one’ could gain a spark, an insight, a sense of the divine, and the confidence to convey those feelings to friends and neighbors.

    I am appalled at the number of ‘Christian’ politicians, prosecutors, and police who pose on church steps or kneeling in prayer on their campaign trails, but cannot or will not face the scientific or the historical truths about cannabis, Medicinal Herb Number One, safe and effective for thousands of years, and celebrated as sacraments by most of the world’s major religions.

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