So can you legally smoke pot in the CNMI now? Not just yet.
Be patient, though, advised Gov. Ralph DLG Torres yesterday. He expects the CNMI Cannabis Commission to come up with the draft regulations governing the use of marijuana in the CNMI within a month.
This comes soon after Torres signed yesterday afternoon a bill that amended the cannabis legalization bill, House Bill 21-13, also called the companion bill of Public Law 20-66, the original law that legalized cannabis use in the CNMI.
After enacting H.B. 21-13 yesterday, Torres said he is confident in seeing the draft cannabis regulations within a month.
H.B. 21-13, now known as P.L. 21-5, starts the timer for the legalization of cannabis use in the CNMI by identifying a salary scale for key staff of the cannabis commission, among other changes in the law.
“If your question is: Can you smoke today? My suggestion is, be patient. We’ve already gone this far to making sure we do this right, so be patient [and] give the opportunity for the [cannabis] commission to try to set rules and regulations, promulgate it, and then we go from there,” the governor said.
According to current law, the cannabis commission is given 180 days to come up with rules for the use of cannabis in the CNMI, as well as regulations that will govern the cannabis industry.
The governor further noted that only when the five cannabis commissioners are sworn into office and officially convened is when the 180-day clock starts ticking.
“…This bill addressed [my previous concerns],” Torres said in an interview. “I ask that the community be patient and allow the [cannabis] commission to promulgate the rules and regulations [for cannabis use] before you can go out and exercise that right.”
As of publication, Torres confirmed that there remains one vacancy in the five-person cannabis commission, which consists of Saipan representatives Matt Deleon Guerrero, Nadine Deleon Guerrero, and Valentino Taisacan. Torres did not mention who the Rota representative is for the cannabis commission.
“…I just spoke with the [Tinian] leadership today, and they will be appointing [a representative] and then we will be moving forward for [an appointment] hearing. Hopefully, we can get a full commission in a few weeks,” he said.
Torres further noted that he previously spoke with the commissioners individually and, according to the governor, they are aware of the serious task at hand.
“…I am sure they are doing their research already, even before being sworn in. I am confident that, once the committee [meets]…and has a quorum, they [will] select a chairman and so forth. I am confident that in 30 days we will have something—at least a draft—that the Office of the Attorney General can look into and go from there,” he said.
One of the original catalysts in the discussion about the legalization of cannabis use in the CNMI, Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan), who was present in yesterday’s enactment, reminded the public to use the product responsibly.
“…Please be very responsible. …Just as the Legislature has put this forth for the people, I believe we can easily remove it if it becomes a problem, so please protect your rights, protect your accessibility, protect your usage, so that we can be a responsible CNMI,” he said.
Igisomar introduced in the 20th Legislature Senate Bill 20-62, the bill that started the discussion on the legalization of cannabis in the CNMI. It was, however, defeated because legislators then believed it was an appropriation bill.
H.B. 21-13 was introduced by Rep. John Paul Sablan’s (R-Saipan).