To Tackle Addiction Issues, CNMI Establishes Drug Court

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Increase in crime, domestic violence attributed to drug abuse

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 29, 2015) – Acting Governor Ralph Torres on Wednesday signed a measure establishing the first drug court in the CNMI.

Introduced by Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero, House Bill 19-94 is now Public Law 19-14.

One of its proponents, Judge David Wiseman, said once the drug-court system is funded and implemented, it will be a problem-solving court that will eventually reduce and mitigate problems associated with drug addiction.

He reiterated that the drug-addiction problem in the CNMI has grown into "unacceptable proportions resulting in an increase in crimes of domestic violence and numerous other negative consequences, and it’s time that this problem is addressed."

He added, "We need to turn the page and that page will turn into a funding page. This will allow the CNMI to join Guam and the other 50 states in a collaborative effort to address the devastating effects of crime in the country."

Attorney General Edward Manibusan said his office supports the program and is looking forward to its implementation,

Retired Utah Judge Steve Hanson, an experienced drug-court judge, said he will be assisting Judge Wiseman for six months in the establishment and operation of the local drug court.

Acting Chief Justice John Manglona said although the CNMI is already 25 years behind in this effort, he is looking forward to the success of the program.

"I thank everyone for your support of this program," he said. "We need your help to make sure that those individuals can become productive members of society again."

Speaker Deleon Guerrero thanked the acting governor for signing on the bill and the Legislature for passing it expeditiously.

"The drug court is the first step in the war on ice," the speaker said. "Many of our families have fallen victim to this drug addiction, and through this program and we want them to become positive members of the community again."

He also announced that Rep. Antonio Sablan, the chairman of Ways and Means Committee, will represent the House on the drug task force created by Governor Inos.

The speaker said the CNMI is now moving in the right direction with the establishment of the task force and the drug court.

Torres said he and the governor fully support the war on ice.

"There’s going to be a lot of trial and error, but I can assure you of our support and as the acting chief justice has said, if we don’t start somewhere we will never get there. This is the right direction for the CNMI and I thank the judges for making these things move forward. We need to work it out to make it a successful program with the manpower and funding which I believe is there — it’s just a matter of appropriating it."

Speaker Deleon Guerrero said they have appropriated $150,000 to fund the operation of the drug court.

"When the governor vetoed the drug-court provision in the budget bill he did not remove the money so it’s still there with the judiciary and the chief justice can reprogram the funds or the secretary of Finance can do a separate business unit for the drug court as a start. There will also be federal grants available — you just have to establish the program first, and as we continue with this drug task force program we can earmark funds to support it as one component of a much bigger picture in this war-on-ice effort."

Sen. Sixto Igisomar, who initiated the current war-on-ice campaign, said he is happy that his concept to combat ice has become a reality with the establishment of the drug court.

Ice addiction has been a concern in the CNMI since the early 1990s.

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