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 Marijuana.com.
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.”
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.