‘Phenomenal interest in pot industry but…’

Zoning law poses roadblocks

The CNMI Cannabis Commission and Rep. Janet U. Maratita (R-Saipan) have seen what they describe as “phenomenal interest” in the cannabis or marijuana industry in the CNMI, but noted that there are some roadblocks due of the Saipan zoning law that needs to be amended.

Maratita, who chairs the House Cannabis Committee, said in an interview last Wednesday that she has received information that, out of many applicants, the commission has so far issued only three Homegrown Marijuana Registry cards. That’s because there is a need to make some minor amendments to the zoning law, whose permitting requirements have become roadblocks in the issuance of homegrown marijuana registry cards.

“Zoning is actually a setback on the home growers,” she said. “The problem is that home growers…have to, for example, comply with [some rules similar to the] poker industry, like [staying] 500 feet away from the church and schools [and places with] lot of residents.”

Maratita said the Legislature will look at amending the zoning law just to ensure that they expedite the permitting process. She said her committee or the chairman of the Saipan and the Northern Islands Legislative Delegation will likely introduce the amendments.

Maratita said she just received a letter that day, Wednesday, from the CNMI Cannabis Commission giving their recommendations on how to speed up the processing for permits.

In the letter to SNILD chair Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan), CNMI Cannabis Commission chair Nadine C. Deleon Guerrero gave recommendations related to the recently enacted amendments to the Saipan Zoning Law of 2013, now Saipan Local Law 21-15. She pointed out incongruencies with statutory definitions, lack of conformity with the CNMI Cannabis Regulations, broad application of condition permits that will create backlogs, and that the legal language that complicates production decisions.

“We share in the interest and intent of the delegation for this bill but wish to highlight the areas in which this amended process will delay, and potentially reduce the potential successes of our newest industry,” Deleon Guerrero said. “There is a phenomenal showcase of interest in the CNMI for this industry, and I believe that in working together we can turn interest into successful outcomes for our community and our government.”

Presently, Deleon Guerrero said, the commission has received numerous inquiries for a cannabis license, and under the current schedule of awaiting public hearings, it may be months before an application would receive the necessary authorizations to begin their investment in this industry.

Maratita said there is also only one potential on the commercial side as there’s no international airlines and due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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