Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives Approves Bill to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana for Adult and Medical Use; Measure Now Heads to the Senate

Aug 08, 2018


Statements below from Sensible CNMI, which advocated for the legislation, and the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization

The Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives approved a bill Wednesday to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult and medical use. It now heads back to the Senate, which approved a similar proposal in May.

H.B. No. 20-178, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan), was approved 18-1-1 in the House. A detailed overview of the bill is available on the Marijuana Policy Project's website. In summary, the legislation:

  • allows adults 21 and older and patients with certain medical conditions to possess limited amounts of marijuana (one ounce), marijuana-infused products (16 ounces in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form), and marijuana extracts (five grams);
  • allows adults 21 and older and patients with certain medical conditions to possess limited amounts of marijuana (one ounce), marijuana-infused products (16 ounces in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form), and marijuana extracts (five grams);
  • creates a Homegrown Marijuana Registry, through which adults and patients can register to grow a limited number of marijuana plants (six mature and 12 immature or up to twice that amount in the case of medical need) for personal use;
  • directs the legislature to enact taxes and fees on all marijuana sold by a producer, as well as an excise tax on retail sales of marijuana for adult use (medical marijuana is exempt);
  • provides for six types of regulated marijuana businesses: producers, testing facilities, processors, retailers, wholesalers, and lounges; and
  • establishes a nine-member appointed CNMI Cannabis Commission, which will serve as the regulatory agency overseeing commercial marijuana and hemp.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands would be the first U.S. territory to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. Such laws have been adopted by voters in eight states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Lawmakers in Vermont and voters in D.C have adopted laws making marijuana possession and cultivation legal for adults, but not regulating commercial production or sales.

Statement from Gerry Hemley, co-founder of Sensible CNMI:

“The true essence of legalization has always been about having safe and legal access to cannabis without fear of arrest and harassment. This thoughtful legislation will control, regulate, and tax marijuana in a manner that is similar to alcohol. It was carefully crafted to improve public health, protect children, and keep our communities safe. We hope senators will join their House colleagues in supporting this commonsense measure.”

Statement from Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“We applaud CNMI legislators for keeping this important legislation alive and moving it forward. Taking marijuana off the illegal market and regulating its production and sale will improve public health and safety. Patients with debilitating conditions who could benefit from marijuana deserve steady access to quality-controlled medicine. The Senate now has a chance to make history by signing off on the bill and sending it to Gov. Torres.”

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