Pubdate: Thu, 18 Nov 2010
Source: Saipan Tribune (US MP)
Copyright: 2010 Saipan Tribune
Author: Jim Rayphand


The ongoing debate over the legalization and/or decriminalization of
marijuana is perhaps the best, most recent illustration of our
society's vast undercurrent of bureaucratic hypocrisy. I for one am
relieved to see that at least one local politician has the coconuts to
put the issue on the table and dare to suggest that people have the
right to "cultivate, possess, and transport marijuana for personal
use" bar none. Putting aside the cash crop, revenue implications and
the sheer madness of vilifying marijuana while we openly celebrate and
promote the distribution of tobacco and alcohol, the idea of
criminalizing the existence and use of a natural herb is simply
absurd. Why should people have to go to jail for cultivating anything
as common as a weed? You see, contrary to popular sentiments, the
primary issue at stake is personal freedom-we're talking about a
person's ability to put a seed in the ground and grow a plant, not
some contrived weapon of mass destruction. The next thing they'll be
telling us is that our traditional, herbal medicines are morally
wrong-they too are mostly harvested from plants that grow in our soil.
You see, cultivation of medicinal herbs and other plants is an
inherent right and a way of life for most islanders.some of us still
believe in the natural healing powers of Mother Nature.

The notion that marijuana poses some kind of threat to the moral fiber
of our society is ultimately as ridiculous as suggesting that betel
nut or coconuts do the same. Yeah that's right, I said coconuts...the
mainstay of island living, but also the unwitting source of a great
buzz in falupwa (tuba), the other natural high if you will. Betel nut
also generates another kind of high. So, if it's the buzz that we fear
and the primary argument against marijuana, then why not criminalize
the cultivation, possession and transportation of coconuts? Maybe
someone should introduce "An Act to End the Coconut Madness."
Ridiculous, right? You see none of us would presume to support a ban
on coconuts or betel nut simply because it can be intoxicating. Yet,
despite the fact that marijuana grows as naturally as any coconut tree
and regardless of the documented benefits of marijuana, our society
maintains that possessing it is a jailable offense.

Whether common knowledge or not, marijuana has long been a crutch for
numerous people with various types of disabilities, including our own
local elders. For some, it serves as the only accessible alternative
to overpriced painkillers and/or appetite enhancers in the wake of an
often debilitating and painful fight against cancer. Not everybody can
afford expensive prescriptions, but just about anybody can water a
plant. Others find it therapeutic and calming in the storm of a
turbulent psychological breakdown, again as an alternative to
artificial doses of overpriced psychotropic drugs. Beyond that, there
is available literature on the benefits of marijuana for patients with
multiple sclerosis and AIDS. If allowed to cultivate their own, people
could avail of these benefits for free. To be sure, there are some
indisputable, detrimental effects of marijuana, including but not
limited to negative effects on short/long-term memory as well as other
effects similar to those resulting from alcohol usage. But the point
is not everyone will use marijuana just because it's legal. The same
is true for tobacco and alcohol. It is and should be a personal choice
without fear of incarceration.

As for the politicians and their recent deliberations on the issue,
any watered down version of a legalization bill restricting marijuana
to "medicinal use" only (i.e., prescriptions from a doctor and RX
manufactured pills) is little more than a new link in the ever-
tightening chain of restraints at the hands of big government and
powerful pharmaceutical companies. Why do we need permission from them
and why should we have to pay them for something we can cultivate and
harvest for ourselves, if we so choose?

Finally, on the myth that the CNMI stands to lose millions of dollars
in federal grant funding if marijuana is decriminalized, well it's
just that, a myth. Eliminating a criminal statute on the possession
and use of marijuana has no bearing on an employer's right to
establish and implement policies for a drug-free workplace in
accordance with required assurances. In other words, even if marijuana
were legal, employers receiving federal funds do not have to allow its
use by its employees; in fact, they can bar it as a condition of

"Things are not the way they use to be-I won't tell no lie. One and
all have got to face reality now. I try to find the answers to all the
questions they ask though I know it's impossible. There is a natural
mystic blowing through the air. You can't keep 'em down. If you listen
carefully you will hear.'bout the natural mystic blowing through the
air" (Bob Marley).

For more on issues relating to the needs of individuals with
disabilities, please contact the NMPASI Office at (670) 235-7273/4
[voice] / 235-7275 [fax] / 235-7278 [tty] or contact us on-line at

Disclaimer: NMPASI adheres to standards of a drug-free workplace as
required by federal law for recipients of federal grant funds. Above
opinions are solely that of the author and do not necessarily
represent the opinions of anyone working for or associated with

Jim Rayphand is the executive director of the Northern Marianas
Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc., or NMPASI.
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MAP posted-by: Matt