When the bill to legalize marijuana use in the CNMI was still being crafted, the CNMI Department of Commerce was pretty much in the thick of it and was involved in helping provide input on the measure.
Now that it is law, the department would like to get involved with helping the CNMI Cannabis Commission in regulating this potentially new industry in the Commonwealth. At least according to acting Commerce secretary Mark O. Rabauliman.
The commission was formed to control and regulate marijuana use in the CNMI, as embodied in Public Law 20-66 that was enacted last year.
Rabauliman said that Commerce was pretty much involved when the bill to create the cannabis industry was still being written. “When [P.L. 20-66] first started, when it was in its draft format, there was a heavy involvement in terms of the Department of Commerce.”
He said there has been a major shift since the creation of the commission and he would like Commerce to get involved anew. “Right now we are in a wait-and-see mode in terms of the commission now doing the regulation. …Commerce is…ready…[but], at this point, it is up to the commission that has been appointed.”
He said that Commerce can help the commission in regulating and issuing licenses to those who want to either grow, produce, process, keep or store homegrown cannabis, whether in a house or cultivation site.
Commerce usually works with businesses, gathers demographical data to be used by the government in its decision-making policies to create jobs, helps improve the standard of living of the community, and find ways to grow the economy.
Rabauliman said that there’s also a possibility that Alcohol, Beverage, and Tobacco Control—one of the five divisions under the Commerce Department—would be involved in the commission’s implementation of the regulations involving cannabis.
“Hopefully, I think, we would be participating. It has not been defined yet, until the commission comes out with the regulations. That’s where our involvement would be more apparent,” added Rabauliman.
Nadine Deleon Guerrero and Matt Deleon Guerrero (Saipan), Valentino Taisacan Jr. (Northern Islands), Lawrence Duponcheel (Tinian), and Thomas Songsong (Rota) are the commission’s members.
Torres again reminded the community that cannabis or marijuana remains illegal in the CNMI, whether for cultivating or smoking, until the commission comes out with the regulations.
“Again, for everybody, it is a trial and error. We’re going to try our very best to create and make policies for the best of the community. At the same time, it is not yet legal to start planting and I hope you don’t start planting. Even smoking it is illegal,” said Torres.
House floor leader Rep. John Paul P. Sablan (R-Saipan) introduced House Bill 21-13, which would make changes to the parts vetoed by Torres in P.L. 20-66.
Torres added that they would also need to identify how much funding the commission needs to operate as his administration wants to make sure they do things right to regulate and control the new industry in the CNMI.
“I’ve met with the commission and told them that we wanted to do it expeditiously but at the same time slowly enough to make sure that we understand what we’re getting ourselves into,” said Torres.