Commercial pot industry hampered by zoning

Posted on Aug 21 2020

The “lengthy” process of acquiring a conditional use permit could hinder the commercial pot industry from booming in the CNMI.

Commonwealth Cannabis Commission managing director Monique Sablan said at the Senate Committee on Cannabis and Gaming meeting Wednesday that zoning for Saipan is one of the roadblocks that are hindering cannabis licensees from submitting a complete application.

“Saipan Local Law 21-15, passed in June of 2020, specifies cannabis farms, retails, and lounge, but it puts those cannabis licenses under a conditional use permit, and the conditional use permit is actually a very lengthy process in order to actually get that permit,” she said. “It requires an application on various documentation to be submitted, [and] requires the applicant, prior to even applying for a cannabis license, to go through a public hearing with Zoning, appear before the board, and their board would have to approve whether or not they will get the Zoning authorization.” That authorization is key, Sablan said, for a cannabis licensee to actually submit their complete application to the commission and get a business license.

“That’s one of the main obstacles that we’ve been going through. …They [CNMI Zoning Board] do have a backlog for their public hearing. They only have about five slots per public hearing, and they only meet once a month,” she added.

The commission, however, has been in communication with the Zoning Board to work on the concern.

In addition, the local law, Sablan said, is “very broad” as it generalizes cannabis farming, in comparison to the regulations set by the commission where production is broken down into four different licenses: micro producer, Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3. Class 3 goes to about 5,000 square feet. “There should be necessary guidelines for at least each of these various licensees.”

Sablan also said that currently, they are working with their applicants to figure out solutions. The commission rolled out three homegrown registry applications Tuesday, while commercial applications remain incomplete due to zoning issues.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at
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