Lawmakers of a US territory in the Pacific Ocean have sent an approved marijuana bill to the Senate for final passage.
House of Representatives of the Northern Mariana Islands has approved the marijuana bill by 18-1 vote.
If finally approved, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) would become the first US controlled islands to allow the recreational use of marijuana.
The approved bill would terminate marijuana prohibition for people over the age of 21. It would also create a system of taxed and regulated sales.
After amending previously submitted Senate bill, the House lawmakers filed the new bill last week and was able to win approval on Wednesday.
A representative of CNMI, Lawrence Duponcheel, said CNMI prohibiting marijuana is harmful.
“The people of the CNMI recognize that the prohibition of marijuana has been terribly misguided and harmful, and our leaders are in touch with the public’s sentiment on this issue.”
“Today, members of the CNMI House of Representatives showed their commitment to honoring the will of the people.”
The CNMI has no medical marijuana program, which is usually the forerunner to recreational marijuana. The islands will also be the first to legalize a system of regulated cannabis production and sales through lawmakers’ action. Voters usually push for the measure via a ballot.
Political director for NORML, Justin Strekal, said CNMI is on the right track.
“The lawmakers and people of CNMI are on track to make history, and more U.S. policymakers would be wise to take notice before the upcoming midterm elections.”
Unlike all others that are supportive of the bill, Governor Ralph Torres has expressed some concern.
He questioned whether marijuana legalization will increase crime rates.
“In the nine states that have legalized marijuana, have we seen an increase in crime? If there is, what is the nature of these crimes? We should look at this and other things. I am concerned about public safety issues.”
It is unclear if he will sign the bill once it reaches his desk.