United States Territory Legalizes Cannabis

With a stroke of Governor Ralph Torres’ [R] pen, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) has officially stepped into the world of legal cannabis.

On Friday, September 21, Torres signed HB 20-178 (Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018), a bill to legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21 and establish a regulatory system for cultivation, processing, testing, sale, and consumption.

“Today, our people made history,” said Torres in a statement. “We took a stand to legalize marijuana in the CNMI for recreational, medical, and commercial use.”

Even though the CNMI has one of the highest cannabis consumption ratios in the world at 22.5%, the governor stressed that marijuana is still not legal until the regulatory system has officially commenced.

During the signing, Torres vetoed certain sections of the measure including ones that allowed government entities to grow cannabis and required marijuana consumers to obtain a $5 permit.

A similar measure, SB 20-62, was on its way to passage earlier this year but had to be halted because revenue-generating bills must originate in the House.

The CNMI’s next step is to appoint and confirm members from Saipan, Rota, Tinian, and the Northern Islands to the Cannabis Commission before drafting and announcing regulations which would go into effect ten days after the adoption and publishing of the Commonwealth Register.