The CNMI became the first U.S. jurisdiction to legalize the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana after Gov. Ralph DLG Torres enacted today House Bill 20-178 that would authorize the regulation and control of cannabis use in the Commonwealth.
The new law would allow adults who are over-21 years old to possess small amounts of marijuana (one ounce), marijuana infused products (16 ounces in solid form and 72 ounces in liquid form), and marijuana extracts (five grams).
H.B. 20-178 is now known as Public Law 20-66 or the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018.
In a statement from the Office of the Governor yesterday, Torres clarified that it is not legal to use marijuana in the Commonwealth just yet.
“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.
“Then, our commission have 180 days to create the regulations and promulgate them. The regulations take into effect 10 days after adoption and publication with our Commonwealth Register.
“We will ensure that this industry will be properly regulated and enforced. 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,” said Torres in the statement.
Rep. Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) introduced HB 20-178, essentially the same bill authored by Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) in the Senate.
Igisomar’s bill, after passing the Senate, needed to be re-introduced at the House since the legislation has income-generating provisions. All revenue-generating bills need to originate from the House.
Pro-cannabis groups, like Sensible CNMI, and other individuals came out to witness Torres’ historic signing of the bill Friday afternoon on Capital Hill.
In signing the bill into law, Torres said his office, with the help of legal counsel Gil Birnbrich, combed through every comment—oral and written—made in all public hearings that were held and also all the information provided including the recommendations of the CNMI Attorney General’s Office.
Torres, however, added that P.L. 20-66 still needs some work and he expects another legislation to address some of his concerns. He said that he had already talked to Deleon Guerrero and Igisomar to come up with a separate bill.
“I would like to see a forthcoming bill that would address the concerns that I have. …I would like to again emphasize how important it is for the Legislature to come back with another bill that addresses the concerns that I have so as the Attorney General to make this bill stronger and some of the fees and penalties stiffer and as well as tax purposes.”
Sensible CNMI co-founder Laurence Duponcheel thanked all the officials, groups, and other individuals that worked on the historic legislation. “I am proud of the CNMI leadership, citizens, and national organizations for working together to thoughtfully develop and approve a progressive piece of legislation that will improve the quality of life of so many.
“Together, we are telling the world, that we do not feel that our citizens should be stigmatized and criminalized for the responsible adult use of cannabis and that they should no longer be denied access to this life-saving medicine.”