Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is looking to have the CNMI Cannabis Commission organized so they could already formulate and implement the rules that would regulate an upcoming cannabis industry in the Commonwealth.
Public Law 20-66 legalized the medical and recreational use of marijuana in the CNMI.
The appointments of the members of the commission—Nadine Deleon Guerrero and Matt Deleon Guerrero (Saipan), Valentino Taisacan Jr. (Northern Islands), Lawrence Duponcheel (Tinian), and Thomas Songsong (Rota)—have already been confirmed by each of their legislative delegations in the 20th Legislature.
The commission, however, is not official yet; the commissioners have yet to be sworn in. They are also waiting for the companion bill, which would address the line-items that Torres vetoed when he signed P.L. 20-66 into law.
A companion bill House Bill 20-196, introduced by former representative Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, did not make it through the previous legislature, having been introduced just as both the House and Senate were having their closing sessions a few days before the inauguration of the new legislature.
Torres is optimistic that the companion bill will have better success this year as he plans to meet with the five-member commission, along with members of the Legislature headed by House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan) and Senate President Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota).
“I plan to give them [commission] the appropriate funding that they need to formulate as a commission. And they get 180 days after that to promulgate the rules and regulations so we can start implementing the law,” said Torres.
“We want them [commission] to do it right. It is time-sensitive, but we don’t want to force them either to make a regulation that is not sound for the CNMI,” Torres added.
P.L. 20-66 states after the bill is signed, the governor and the mayors of the three other municipalities have 30 days to appoint the members of the commission. The appointees will then have 60 days to get confirmation from their respective delegations.
The commission, within 180 days of their organizational meeting, must then prescribe forms and adopt rules for the program that have six types of regulated marijuana businesses: producers, testing facilities, processors, retailers, wholesalers, and lounges.
The commission will then begin accepting applications once all licensing regulations have been adopted and they are not allowed to delay the processing, approval, or rejection of these applications.