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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

CNMI legalizes marijuana

CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on Friday signed a bill that legalizes marijuana for recreational, medical and commercial use in the Northern Marianas, making it the first U.S. territory to make weed accessible in the market for diverse purposes.

“Today, our people made history,” Torres said in signing the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018. The bill’s enactment is touted to build a new industry that will prop up the commonwealth’s booming economy fueled by casino.

Marijuana, however, will not be legally accessible until regulations are set in place, the governor said.

“We have 30 days to set up our Cannabis Commission by appointing members from Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands, and our local legislative delegations would need to confirm them within 30 days,” said Torres, who is seeking reelection this year.

The commission will have 180 days to create and implement the regulations, which will go into effect 10 days after adoption and publication in the Commonwealth Register.

“We will ensure that this industry will be properly regulated and enforced,” Torres said. “We want to do this the right way, and I also expect the Legislature to send me a companion bill that outlines my recommendations to strengthen this bill for our community's public safety and

public health.”

In summary, the legislation:

  • allows adults 21 and older and patients with certain medical conditions to possess limited amounts of marijuana (one ounce), marijuana-infused products (16 ounces in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form), and marijuana extracts (five grams);

  • creates a Homegrown Marijuana Registry, through which adults and patients can register to grow a limited number of marijuana plants (six mature and 12 immature or up to twice that amount in the case of medical need) for personal use;

  • directs the legislature to enact taxes and fees on all marijuana sold by a producer, as well as an excise tax on retail sales of marijuana for adult use (medical marijuana is exempt);

  • provides for six types of regulated marijuana businesses: producers, testing facilities, processors, retailers, wholesalers, and lounges; and

  • establishes a five-member appointed CNMI Cannabis Commission, which will serve as the regulatory agency overseeing commercial marijuana and hemp.

CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres signs CNMI CAnnabix Act of 2018

CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres is joined by lawmakers and marijuana advocates at the signing of the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018 on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. Photo courtesy of the Office of Gov. Ralph Torres

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“From the hard work of our Legislature going out and conducting numerous public hearings on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota to the overwhelming support from members of our community, it is only fitting that I sign this bill into law in the best interest of our people, especially those suffering from debilitating illnesses and for our island economy,” Torres said. “I want to thank our Legislature, especially the authors Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar and Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, our advocates, and everyone in our community for sharing their concerns and helping us realize this historic day for the people that call these islands home.”

In 2014, Guam became the first U.S. territory to legalize marijuana for medical use but adoption of regulations for the Joaquin "KC" Conception II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013 remains in limbo. Recreational use of marijuana on Guam remains under discussion.

(See more in the October 2018 print edition of the Pacific Island Times)

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