With less than a month to complete the regulations that would govern the new cannabis industry in the CNMI, the Commonwealth Cannabis Commission is still working on the third and last part of the regulations—the medical aspect.
Attorney General Edward E. Manibusan is still reviewing the homegrown and the commercial regulations that the commission has already completed and submitted for review.
Sen. Vinson Sablan (Ind-Saipan), who chairs the newly created Senate Committee on Cannabis and Gaming, said in an interview Thursday that the commission is now finalizing the medical aspect of the industry.
The commission, chaired by Nadine Deleon Guerrero, have already submitted the draft homegrown and commercial regulations to Manibusan for review and comments.
According to law, all regulations must be completed by March 18.
“We haven’t gotten anything back yet from the AG. As soon as they finish their legal review, [the regulations] will return back to the commission. And that’s when it will become available to the public for review,” he said.
The other thing that is happening is that Rep. Marco T. Peter (R-Saipan) has introduced a bill to remove the hemp component from the Cannabis Act and place that under the regulatory authority of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, which is the agricultural arm of the government.
Last October, the House of Representatives unanimously passed Peter’s House Bill 21-55 House Draft 1 that allows the production of hemp in the CNMI. Hemp is a strain of cannabis that has relatively lower concentrations of tetrahydocannabinol, or THC—the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis.
Because hemp now is legal at the federal level, Sablan said that Peter’s bill will place it under the authority of the Division of Agriculture under DLNR. That would allow the CNMI to obtain some possible funding from the U.S. Congress, such as the Farm Bill that had been passed in Congress.
“Other than that, we don’t have any finalized regulations yet,” he said.
Until the final regulations are published and in effect, that’s when the CNMI will see the commercial aspect, like how many dispensaries are going to be around Saipan as well as on Rota and Tinian.
“That’s when we kind of see the emergence of the industry as soon as the regulations are done,” the senator said.
When the regulations are complete, he said the permitting process will commence.
“People can come in and start getting their homegrown permits or home growers permits,” he said, adding that there will be permits for commercial establishments or investors interested in the industry.
Sablan is hoping to see the actual emergence of the cannabis industry and an increase in visitor arrivals from different jurisdictions.
“That’s what we are counting on. I’m not sure what kind of revenue we’ll see on the commercial side. That has yet to be seen,” he said.
The senator said when they get everything or regulations in place, then they can see what’s the commercial component or what kind of effect it will have on the CNMI’s tourism.
“It’s a bit of unknown. We just kind of really wait for it to take off and see where it goes,” he said. “Hopefully it can bring some economic activity to the islands.”