Last update: February 10, 2020
Northern Mariana Islands
On September 21, 2018, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed a bill into law making cannabis legal both for medical purposes and adult use. Gov. Torres issued a line-item veto of a handful of specific provisions — such as the fees — and requested some additions to the program. In summer 2019, the legislature passed and Gov. Torres signed an implementation bill.
The new law allows both adults who are 21 or older and medical cannabis patients of any age to possess and purchase limited amounts of cannabis. Home cultivation is allowed, provided the individual registers and pays a fee. The proposal charges a new Cannabis Commission with regulating and licensing six types of marijuana businesses — producers, processors, retailers, wholesalers, lounges, and testing facilities. The commission was appointed in September 2019.
Both medical cannabis and adult-use marijuana have been legalized in Guam, but neither law has fully taken effect yet.
Guam was the first United States territory to legalize medical marijuana in 2014. Guam legalized medical marijuana for "debilitative conditions" via referendum in the November 2014 mid-term elections, with 56% voting in favor. Guam had previously attempted to legalize medical marijuana in 2010, but the effort was unsuccessful.
Implementation has been slow. In February 2018, then-Gov. Eddie Calvo signed a bill into law — Public Law 34-80 — to create rules and regulations for the medical cannabis program. No one has applied for a costly testing laboratory license. In October 2018, Calvo signed a bill allowing patients to cultivate their own cannabis.
Turning to adult use, in April 2019, the unicameral legislature passed legalization 8-7, and Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero (D) signed the bill into law. The new law allows adults 21 and older to possess and grow limited amounts of cannabis. It will also allow licensed and regulated businesses to dispense cannabis to adults, while taxing sales at a rate of 15%.
Puerto Rico’s governor signed a medical cannabis bill into law in 2015. The Department of Health implemented the law. As of March 2018, there were more than 20,000 registered patients, and, as of August 2018, more than 30 dispensaries are licensed.
El gobernador de Puerto Rico firmó una ley de cannabis medicinal en 2015. El departamento de salud implementó la ley. A partir de marzo de 2018 había 20,000 pacientes registrados en el programa, y hasta agosto, había más de 30 dispensarios de cannabis. Para más detalles, visite el Página del Programa de Cannabis.
In his annual State of the Territory address in January 2020, USVI Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D) repeated his call for marijuana legalization, emphasizing the potential tax revenue a marijuana market could provide to fund important government programs. The plan the governor supports would also promote small business participation in the program and provide for automatic expungements of previous marijuana-related convictions.
Gov. Bryan signed a medical cannabis bill into law in 2019. Sen. Positive T.A. Nelson sponsored the bill, which allows medical cannabis, both for Virgin Islands residents and tourists. For MPP’s summary, click here.
Adult-use cannabis remains illegal in the Virgin Islands.
Cannabis is illegal in American Samoa, both for medical and adult use, and the jurisdiction has some of the harshest penalties in the United States.
If you live in American Samoa and would like that to change, let your lawmakers know it’s time for a more humane and fiscally sound approach to marijuana policy. You can find resources on medical marijuana here [and background on legalization and regulation here. For a more intermediate approach, see MPP’s decriminalization page.
As we saw in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, even a small number of dedicated activists and allied lawmakers can make all the difference, especially in jurisdictions with small populations.