A lawmaker is making an eleventh-hour push to get marijuana legalization on the ballot this November in a tropical U.S. territory in the Western Pacific.
Senator Sixto K. Igisomar this week pre-filed a bill that would allow residents of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to vote on legalization, local media outlets reported. The commonwealth is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean located north of Guam and southeast of Japan.
The Commonwealth Marijuana Regulation Act of 2016 would provide access for medicinal, personal and commercial uses, according to the Saipan Tribune. Revenue generated from the sales would support enforcement actions as well as the commonwealth’s “hospital, public schools and retirees,” Igisomar told the Saipan Tribune.
Unlike its neighbor Guam, which in the 2014 election became the first U.S. territory to legalize medical marijuana, the Northern Mariana Islands has enacted a policy of prohibition. Igisomar said that adopting a recreational market that allows for doctor-recommended medical cannabis would serve a variety of individuals and purposes, according to the Marianas Variety:
“While I continue to support the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, I think that the temperament across the country is that full legalization is working in the states that have legalized it. The public through our public hearings have expressed their desire for full legalization. I think it would be wise to bring this question to the people to vote on this initiative,” Igisomar said.
“Again, while medicinal marijuana measures have passed in virtually every state as well as in the U.S. Territory of Guam, I believe that the critical mass is not present in the CNMI to the extent where medicinal marijuana legislation could be economical to enforce yet affordable to patients,” he added.
Igisomar said the Northern Mariana Islands also could benefit from observing how others adopted marijuana policy, according to the Saipan Tribune. A total of 25 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Guam have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational uses.
Igisomar couldn’t be immediately reached on Friday for comment.
Marijuana.com, which has posted a full version of Igisomar’s bill, reported Thursday that Northern Mariana Islands’ Election Commission has until Aug. 10 to approve bills for the 2016 ballot; if that approval comes after Aug. 10, the bill would land on the 2018 ballot.