Problematic language in cannabis law stymies commission

Posted on Mar 14 2019

Certain language in the companion bill of the marijuana law in the CNMI is stopping the CNMI Cannabis Commission from getting organized in order to formulate the implementing rules and regulations of the new industry.

In Tuesday’s meeting, commissioner Matt Deleon Guerrero informed the House Cannabis Committee that some of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ line-item vetoes in the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018, or Public Law 20-66, must first be addressed.

“We have yet to get organized. There’s some critical areas that would not allow us to hold our organizational session that would initiate the clock for the promulgation for the final regulations for implementing this,” Matt Deleon Guerrero said. “Without the alterations on this [law], the promulgations and regulations would not necessarily be fully done in a matter of having all the cards on the table and full clarity as to what the law would require and the law would wish for.”

Deleon Guerrero said the fee structure is another one of those contentious issues. In his line item veto, Torres had said that the $5 annual registration fee per person under P.L. 20-66 is insufficient; it was raised to $25 per person in H.B. 21-13.

Deleon Guerrero added the long-term viability of the industry is another substantial amendment that is necessary, particularly the five-year residency requirement prior to being eligible to receive a license.

“Under the current language, the limit as the date of reference…would [exclude] a large portion of otherwise eligible residents from being able to enter the industry,” he said.

Language requiring commission members to not be government employees is another issue. “The commissioners retaining government employment, before they resign, they need to have full-time commission job. Money is an issue. I’m not a government employee but four out of the five commissioners are CNMI government employees.”

“And in our conversations with legal counsels—both the Legislature and the Executive Branch—the language prohibits certain government employees from continuing employment once appointed to the commission. Which would require them to quit and that won’t give them any means for income.”

The bill intended to address these concerns that Torres raised when P.L. 20-66 was enacted last year has already been introduced in the House of Representatives as House Bill 21-13.

House Cannabis Committee chair Janet U. Maratita (R-Saipan) has already asked the commissioners to comment on the bill so her committee could come out with a report on H.B. 21-13. That report would then be presented to House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao, who would then put H.B. 21-13 on the calendar for the entire House to vote on.

Nadine Deleon Guerrero (Saipan), Valentino Taisacan Jr. (Northern Islands), Lawrence Duponcheel (Tinian), and Thomas Songsong (Rota) are the commission’s other members.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.
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