Pubdate: Tue, 29 Mar 2011
Source: Saipan Tribune (US MP)
Copyright: 2011 Saipan Tribune
Author: Haidee V. Eugenio


Rep. Stanley Torres (Ind-Saipan) introduced on the House floor 
yesterday a bill seeking to legalize marijuana use in the CNMI for 
medical and recreational use, barely four months since the Senate 
killed his previous proposal of the same nature.

"The legalization, regulation, and taxation of cannabis in the 
Commonwealth will be the best marijuana law in America," Torres said 
in a privilege speech at the House session.

Torres said he "candidly admit[s]" that his primary reason for 
introducing the bill is to tax and regulate marijuana transactions in 
the CNMI, which is in dire financial need.

Other House members said they are either still opposed to a marijuana 
bill or haven't fully read Torres' new bill.

Torres' House Bill 17-175 or the Legalization, Regulation and 
Taxation of Cannabis Act of 2011 allows people at least 21 years old 
to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use.

It also permits the regulation and taxation of the commercial 
production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older.

The bill, however, prohibits the possession of marijuana on school 
grounds and bans the use of marijuana while minors are present.

He said the time has come to decriminalize marijuana to the lowest 
level of misdemeanor crime that can be committed within the CNMI.

Rep. Frank Dela Cruz (R-Saipan), one of the seven House members who 
voted "no" to Torres' previous marijuana legalization bill, said he 
is opposed to any type of marijuana legalization legislation, 
"whether for medicinal purpose or other purposes."

"I don't believe that this is a legislation we need at this time to 
turn our economy around. I will not support the legislation," he told 
Saipan Tribune in an interview.

House floor leader George Camacho (Ind-Saipan) said his vote on the 
marijuana bill will remain the same-"no."

House minority leader Diego Benavente (R-Saipan), who previously 
approved Torres' marijuana bill that the Senate rejected, said he has 
not decided yet whether to also support the new marijuana bill.

"Senate already rejected the marijuana bill. I don't see the need to 
continue introducing something that's not going to pass. We should 
not waste our time on this," he added.

Rep. Trenton Conner (R-Tinian), who voted "yes" on the first 
marijuana bill, said he has yet to get a copy of the latest bill so 
he can't comment on it.

'I'm The Rule'

Instead of reading his 10-page privilege speech on his new marijuana 
legislation, Torres instead passed out copies of his speech, 
concerned that his colleagues will also shut him off the way they did 
with Rep. Froilan Tenorio (Cov-Saipan) when he was introducing his two bills.

Tenorio spent time explaining the intent of his bill to repeal the 
Investment Incentive Act and to expand the hours of sale of alcohol 
in hotels and resorts.

Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) raised his hand to call the 
speaker's attention and said members should limit their statements to 
the introduction of their bills and not to discuss the merits of their bills.

Deleon Guerrero said there's a time for discussing each bill, and not 
during the introduction of bills.

Tenorio asked Deleon Guerrero to show him a provision in the House 
rule that says a member cannot discuss his bill during introduction.

At this point, Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan) said, "It's not in the 
rule because I am the rule."

Cabrera's statement drew reactions from members who were taken aback.

The speaker then said in the future, members should focus on strictly 
introducing their bills.

Minutes later, Cabrera called out the attention of reporters to say 
that he made the statement during a "short recess."

Even so, some members said the speaker should have never uttered such 
a statement during a session or during a short session recess when 
he's in the microphone and addressing members.

It was because of this brief intense moment that Torres did not read 
his privilege speech on his new marijuana bill.  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake