OPINION | Epitaph 156: The continuing legalization & hemp fiasco

The Republicans only used the bare skeleton and now they are going back for a third time to adopt the very things I TOLD THEM SO in the my draft. They already made criminals of people for certain marijuana violations when the whole idea was to “decriminalize marijuana” as much as possible without stepping on the Fed’s toes. I told them Marijuana Violations should be treated like “traffic violations and addressed with a citation” unless it is a case of “an adult contributing to the delinquency of a minor.”

With the War-on-Drugs being nearly 50 years old and not working it’s truly time to try something totally new to end the war. Presently, we still have the 18 to 20 age group who are most likely to use marijuana and subject to being prosecuted like an adult because they will be treated like an adult and not a youth but can’t use marijuana — a real dichotomy. We are literally setting this age group up for failure and prosecution for using marijuana unlike other adults, which is not fair as it defies the ideology of all adults being EQUAL! If we can send the 18 to 20 age group to war and they sacrifice their life and they can vote & carry a weapon at 18 then we can certainly let them use marijuana. Recognizing the 18 to 20 age groups as “equal adults” is something all of America needs to realize and end this unfair dichotomy of the 18 to 20 age group being “half-adult & half-youth.” Mark my words, “one-day this age group is going to protest this inequality in the law” and time is on my side for TRUE! This unfair law is purely the result of ridiculous safe BS politics by politicians who pretend to be exercising wisdom but are really inept lacking the fortitude to impose equality!

Now they are talking about eliminating marijuana from the government testing protocol which will surely conflict with “Federally Funded Employees” and could come under Federal scrutiny. We shouldn’t put the Feds on the spot to take any adverse actions because I TOLD THEM (the 19th Senate) that a simple and simultaneous Executive Legislation with the Legalization Bill delineating which Government Employees would be exempted from Marijuana Testing would suffice but they didn’t listen again and now they are backtracking again. But we must tread carefully because the employees who are paid with Federal Funds are still subject to Federal Law and cannot use marijuana.

However, for me, if the CNMI Government is going to take the risk and fight to protect the Federal Funded Employees then I’m all for letting all Government employees use marijuana. I would much rather see them smoking a “joint” than getting drunk and its better for their health. There are even test now that can differentiate between “recent & old marijuana use in one’s system” that allows for safety sensitive employees like bus drivers and first responders to use marijuana when not on duty. While I agree all safety sensitive employees do need to be randomly tested for all drugs when on duty just to keep them honest, there will still be a “catch” for those who carry a weapon which is governed by Federal Law. So, it will surely be a delegate matter for all Government Employees to use marijuana.

I do know that WE the People must ALL learn how to live with marijuana being legal because WE will never un-ring that Legalization Bell. But I pushed hard to help the Government with “the Educational Aspects of Legalization” because it will surely be a learning experience for everyone in the CNMI but I was totally rejected by the Governor. I can remember warning our leaders to NOT end up like Guam who still doesn’t have a Laboratory & Dispensaries six years after legalizing marijuana but it obvious they didn’t listen and wouldn’t let me help as we are now four years in and still no public activity with marijuana sales and usage. Without a laboratory there will be NO Cannabis Tourism and NO Public Sales of marijuana because our Republicans didn’t learn the lessons from me nor from Guam’s recent history with legalization — so sad.

I even told them to “empower the Local Municipal Councils in dealing with Marijuana Issues, especially the ability to designate Public Locations on their individual islands for adult only marijuana usage like in certain “marked areas” on beaches and other locations. Common sense should have told them every Cannabis Tourist that will come to the CNMI and every smoker in the CNMI who uses marijuana will want to smoke on the beach — duh! We can get drunk on the beach but we can’t smoke a joint — HELLER! They failed to see that they were setting people up for failure by not providing public locations for marijuana usage because people are going to gather in public locations and smoke illegally which is a recipe for failure without approved locations. Heck everyone knows what’s happening at parties when the guys go around back — so let’s get REAL about this. It’s like declaring no smoking at on a worksite with no designated smoking area but right outside the boundary and even in secluded places inside the boundary you find mounds of cigarette butts littering the area — a failure in the analytical thinking process when creating these kinds of policies.

WE the People were told the Licenses would generate revenues, which I knew was a lie and to my knowledge there hasn’t been any segregation or reporting of Marijuana Revenues from Licenses that must be segregated from Local & Federal Funds. In simple terms, “what is in the Marijuana Account if there is an account because the Commission already borrowed money and the license money is supposed to be the source to pay it back with an “independent budget” – so what is in that budget and have you paid back the loan to the Commission Governor??? I hope and pray our new Democrats will find out and fix this too. But with only three licenses being sold for growing and nothing reported on licenses for individual growing, and nothing on a Laboratory and Dispensaries I can understand the embarrassment and lack of reporting.

But it should be noted that the failures of our Legalization efforts are not so much the fault of the Commissioners but “Sixto, the Legislature and our Governor” as they all refused to LISTEN, and now “redundant steps to create legislation” when I Told Them So! I’m sure some readers can remember the front-page story in the Variety that read “Bennett Slams Senate” for not listening, stalling around and using the marijuana issue for election purposes. Heck, Justo Quituga made fun of me saying they would “make the Bill 1,000 pages” when I questioned nearly 200 pages of my draft that they PAID FOR being trashed and Arnold Palacios even slammed the Senate round-table and tried to scold me when I had the Floor in the 19th Senate — unprofessional, sad and disrespectful. But I guess they forgot whom they work for (me & you readers) because no voter should ever be disrespected by an elected leader especially on the Floor of the Legislature. But “he who gets the last laugh always laughs best” and I’m truly laughing at them to really keep from crying over how they messed up as, “sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying” like my MaDear would say.

But hopefully the Democrats will have a majority control with the Speaker Post and that they will fix our Cannabis Tourism and Hemp Industries which are now critical to expanding and rebuilding our economic base. I am also still willing to help if they want me to help fix this mess that Sixto, the Legislature and the Governor made of our Cannabis Tourism & Hemp Industries. To be continued: One People One Direction.

Footnote: I forgot to mention in a previous Epitaph that Governor Torres and former President Trump may actually become “cell-mates” in the not too distant future which would indeed be “poetic justice.” I say this because #45 (Trump) will also be going to jail once he is out of the White House. The Federal Southern District of NY, which is known for prosecuting the Mafia and high-profile cases, has been waiting in the wings to indict and prosecute Trump and his attorney Rudolph William Louis Giuliani. The only reason they are not already in jail is because the President is protected from prosecution by law but 2021 will surely be the year of “Executives-going-to-jail” Torres & Trump, for TRUE.

The writer is a retired teacher, former CNMI Board of Education Member, James Madison Fellow (U.S. Constitutional Scholar) and a Fulbright-Hays Foreign Scholar who resides in Kagman III.

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