Guam became the second U.S. territory to legalize the recreational use of marijuana after Gov. Lou Deleon Guerrero signed Bill 32-35 yesterday, lifting years of prohibition and following in the CNMI’s footsteps to allow the use of cannabis.
The Commonwealth legalized both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana last year with the enactment of the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act.
Guam first legalized medicinal use but has yet to implement the regulations of the new law. The CNMI, on the other hand, has yet to formally organize the CNMI Cannabis Commission, almost seven months after Public Law 19-66 became law. The five-member CNMI Cannabis Commission is still awaiting the passage of House Bill 21-13, a companion bill to the marijuana law, before working on the regulations that would govern pot legislation.
In a press briefing yesterday at the Governor’s Office in Adelup, Guam, Leon Guerrero said her decision to enact the bill “was made with an open mind.”
Leon Guerrero, Guam’s first female governor, had supported the lifting of the prohibition on cannabis during her campaign.
This development is considered welcome news for the CNMI as the Commonwealth can work in collaboration with its southern neighbor on the emerging cannabis industry in the region.
Now known as P.L. 35-5 or the Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019, introduced by Sen. Clynton E. Ridgell, this new law allows individuals who are over 21 years old to legally use marijuana. It would regulate the use, production, sale, and taxation of cannabis, with a Cannabis Control Board to be formed.
P.L. 35-5 also declassifies marijuana as a schedule 1 controlled substance in Guam and it would redefine references to it in the Guam Uniform Controlled Substances Act.
Opposition remains, however, with the Archdiocese of Agana saying in a statement that drug problems in Guam have reached epic proportions. “Guam is already riddled with a drug problem of epidemic magnitude. We are saddened by the decision of Gov. Leon Guerrero to approve Bill 32 and sign it into law.”
“We urge, as she said today, for all groups in our community to devote tremendous effort and attention to protecting our youth from this illicit drug, which we all agree many of them are already regularly ingesting,” the archdiocese statement added.
The archdiocese added that the new law makes cannabis more accessible to the youth. “How can we expect our youth to obediently stay away from ‘adult use cannabis’ when it will multiply immensely throughout the island? When adults themselves will now be more widely abusing it other than for medicinal purposes? The war on keeping drugs and substance abuse away from our children just lost a major ground. And we are our own worst enemies.”
Leon Guerrero, however, said setting the regulations within the law in the coming months should allay those concerns. “Nothing changes in the policies at the workplace. As a responsible business, we must continue the zero-tolerance policy.”
“I say to the opponents that I appreciate their concerns and their concerns are also my concerns. …A lot of their concerns were safety and increased access to children. They also had concerns about the workplace. It is very clear in this piece of legislation that you cannot use it in public places.”
She added that it is the parents’ role to keep marijuana out of the reach of children. “The government is here to assist and provide resources to help the parents. But parents must never abandon their responsibility and the protection of their children and nothing in this bill, now law, changes that.”
“I think the more it strengthens the controls and now that we have it up from the black market industry, away from dealers that are predators on our children, we can better monitor and better control it. The next step is to educate the people and make them aware of what we can and what we cannot do. It is very clear that we cannot use it in public places.”
This was echoed by the bill’s author, Ridgell, who said in a statement: “This has been and continues to be a community issue, but the fight is not over yet. I invite the public to remain focused on continuing to provide input in the development of the rules and regulations by the Cannabis Control Board for safe, adult use cannabis.
P.L. 35-5 bans the use of marijuana in public unless given permission by the CCB; personal cultivation can be done in a private residence with a six-plant limit; and cannabis establishments are not allowed within 1,000 feet of any school (public or private), childcare centers, and public playgrounds and parks.