- By Ambrose M. Bennett – Activist
I DON’T think it is a matter of IF we will legalize marijuana anymore given the Senate’s seriousness on the issue and the fact that many in the House of Representatives and the general public are also anxiously waiting on the Senate to finalize the Bill.
There are just three major hurdles for the Bill left: 1. The task of making the proper changes to the Bill determined to be needed in the Senate Hearings. 2. The task of addressing the concerns by the AG that the present Bill as an Initiative violates the “process” under the law — meaning the Legislature will have to start OVER with a “Petition Drive” or just make it a Legislative Act that becomes law once the Governor signs. 3. The Bill must make sure the CNMI can be fully capable and accountable to comply with the Fed’s “Cole Memo”. The Cole Memo is named after former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who served under Barack Obama and it outlines a series of “rules” that states have to follow in order for the federal government to maintain a “hands-off approach.”
These rules of the Cole Memo required states to: “1.Ensuring that minors don’t gain access to pot, 2. Ensure drivers under the influence of cannabis are dealt with harshly, and 3. The cannabis grown within a state stays within that state” — so NO importing or exporting as it was once proposed in the Bill. The Feds can also still arrest and prosecute those who violate the state’s new marijuana laws. For example: If the state says you can grow 10 trees but you have 100 the Feds can step in and take the 90 trees and prosecute you in Federal Court. So don’t think the Feds are out of this with Legalization and I’m sure they will be watching. But don’t worry about Jeff Sessions who thinks “only good people don’t use marijuana” as he is surely blowing smoke if the GOP wants any chance of staying in power in Congress and the WH — he is figuratively trying to “un-ring the bell” with marijuana legalization which is something every first year law students learns they CAN’T DO. Legalization is here to STAY!
However, my main concern for now is for the people who want to become growers as “ARE the Growers Ready” because the Cannabis Industry CANNOT run on the quality of marijuana that is presently being sold on the streets in the CNMI, especially on Saipan. In fact, some of the marijuana sold on the streets in the CNMI could get you a “beat-down or worse” on the mainland for selling “poor quality pot.” I did read an opinion letter about Tinian Growers being ready but the challenge with the Cannabis Industry is to “have developed STRAINS of marijuana that are ALL CLONES” which I don’t think is happening anywhere in the CNMI like it was in places like California and Colorado and other states where a lot of cultivation is done “INDOORS.” There is virtually no such thing as using seeds to generate marijuana crops in the Cannabis Industry unless you are creating a new strain that needs “breeding” because each “product (plant)” must remain the same in each cultivation cycle — just like any product you purchase in the store it has to be the same thing in every can or package year-in and year-out. If our growers are not cloning their crops with multiple Stains the CNMI will not be ready for the Cannabis Industry.
Unlike California with a population in the millions and a location where the climate allowed for thousands of growers to develop many strains and Colorado with millions that also had literally thousands of people growing various high quality strains indoors through “cloning,” the CNMI’s marijuana is still being driven by the planting of seeds which is really guess work and a “outdated” practice. We are “dinosaurs” figuratively. Marijuana Strains are products that are marketed and sold like any other product on the open market. If you buy a coke today you expect it to be the same next year. But many of the small Grow Businesses are now being challenged by BIG Business all the more reason for the Bill to make sure Locals have the FRIST advantage of being the initial marijuana suppliers which I will talk about in part 2.
But one of the things that should be noted is that I have been trying to make sure of in S.B. 20-62 is that it will make it possible for ALL the present growers to become LEGAL growers which will also kill the immediate supply and even the future supply for any Black-market or Boot-leg sales. If Local growers are “rejected” they will likely remain Black-market or Boot-leg growers and it will be ALL OUR FAULT as we will have created Boot-legers instead of diminishing the capacity for bootlegging just like we created the Cartels by declaring War on Drugs. A lesson history has ALREADY taught!
Just think, it wasn’t long ago that people who used marijuana were viewed as bad people and criminals but now we want to exclude these SAME people once marijuana is legal — a pure hypocritical political act to insinuate everyone and everything in the industry is SOOOO good. The Cannabis Industry should be the ONE industry in America where your record DOES NOT matter unless it requires you to carry a gun — as ex-criminals are the ones who know the most about marijuana, how to grow it and marijuana products.
More importantly is the fact that the Cannabis Industry is the simple economics of “supply & demand” and if we don’t have the supply for the demand its futile to legalize. Aren’t we learning anything from Guam’s dilemma and their inability to even get started two years later. Another example I want to remind readers of is the fact that Las Vegas ran out of marijuana the “FIRST WEEK” they opened the dispensaries for recreational use because Nevada is desert with not nearly as many growers as Colorado. In fact, creating the supply of marijuana for our Cannabis Industry is our biggest FIRST challenge which needs to begin LONG before marijuana is legalized as it will take at least a year or more for the CNMI to develop a quality and sustainable supply of marijuana. The Cannabis Industry is a VERY serious business and we need the Legislature and the present growers to bring their “A-game” literally. We must keep in mind that the Cannabis Industry is a self-starting industry so we don’t be like Guam — two years after legalization and still no crops or dispensaries. So if you are a grower and want to be part of the Industry then you need to learn how to clone quick, fast and in-a-hurry so you can become a real legal entrepreneur as a licensed commercial cultivator! The Legislature must empower and even HELP local growers in S.B. 20-62 and growers need to get ready if you are not ready because the CNMI needs YOU!
The writer is a resident of Kagman, Saipan