CNMI Marijuana Legalization Bill Passes, Heads to Governor

The Northern Marianas’ Commonwealth Legislature has approved a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult and medical use.

House Bill 20-178, titled the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018, will now be sent to Gov. Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres for his consideration.

The Senate approved the bill 6-0-2 on Thursday, and it was approved by the House 18-1-1 on August 8.

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.

detailed overview of the bill is available from the Marijuana Policy Project.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands would be the first U.S. territory to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. Such laws have been adopted by voters in eight states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Lawmakers in Vermont and voters in D.C. have adopted laws making marijuana possession and cultivation legal for adults, but not regulating commercial production or sales.

“We commend the lawmakers for taking this important step forward, and we hope Gov. Torres will join them in supporting a more sensible marijuana policy for the Northern Marianas,” said Gerry Hemley, co-founder of Sensible CNMI, in a statement. “This is an opportunity for the commonwealth to establish itself as a trendsetter on this issue and set an example for the states and other U.S. territories. This legislation will replace the illegal marijuana market with a system of regulated, taxpaying businesses. It will not only bolster our economy, but also improve public health and make our community safer.”

“This is a historic moment, as it is the first time a governing body in the U.S. has ever enacted legislation to both end marijuana prohibition and establish a system of regulation to replace it,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement issued earlier today.

“Adults and medical cannabis patients will finally be able to access marijuana safely and legally, and products will be regulated and controlled to ensure they are safe for consumers. This legislation will allow for the establishment of new businesses that create jobs and generate new tax revenue that can support important programs and services,” O’Keefe added.

Location of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States. (Wikimedia Commons)

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