Chief Public Defender Doug Hartig believes that removing home brewing from the CNMI’s list of criminal offenses would ultimately save the CNMI money.
in his comments on Rep. Ivan Blanco’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 21-27, which seeks to lift the criminal offenses that come when caught home brewing alcoholic beverage, Hartig noted that doing so would ultimately save the government with prosecution money.
“The current law regarding alcohol production does not have a home brewing exception found in all other American jurisdictions,” Hartig said. “Unlike the 50 states and all other territories, it is a criminal offense to make tuba, wine, or beer at your house for your use.”
Current law only exempts the use of unlicensed wines for religious ceremonies.
Hartig pointed out that, under indigenous tradition, certain types of alcoholic beverages are brewed and used for personal consumption such as tuba, or coconut wine.
According to the OPD, the CNMI is the only jurisdiction that imposes criminal offenses on people caught brewing their own alcoholic beverages.
“The CNMI is the only U.S. jurisdiction where a person can go to jail and be fined [up to one year and $1,000) for making a small [amount] of beer or wine or tube for his own use,” Hartig wrote. “Right now, anyone making a small amount of tuba could be prosecuted just as if someone was importing and selling liquor by the boatload. I do not think the resources of this office, the Office of the Attorney General, police, and courts should be spent in dealing with this type of prosecution.”
HB 21-27 would allow personal brewing in batch quantities of no more than 10 gallons for private use and not for resale without a license. This language, according to Hartig, corrects the “inadvertent error” in current CNMI law.
As of publication, the bill is still in the House Commerce and Tourism Committee.