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    Wednesday, March 20, 2019-6:42:14P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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House committee approves Cannabis Act amendments

THE House Committee on Cannabis approved Tuesday the proposed amendments to Public Law 20-66 or the Taulamwar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018.

Chaired by Rep. Janet U. Maratita, the committee met with commissioners, who explained the importance of addressing Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ concerns regarding the vetoed line-items in the measure.

Torres in September last year signed the Cannabis Act but vetoed the provision that would allow a government entity to obtain a business license to grow cannabis, and the provision that requires a $5 permit for recreational use and a $4,500 license fee for a cannabis business.

In an interview after the committee meeting, Commissioner Nadine Deleon Guerrero said they asked lawmakers “to move the [amendments proposed by House Bill 21-13] forward.”

Authored by House Floor Leader John Paul P. Sablan, the bill would increase from $5 to $25 the annual registration fee per person.

In addition, the bill proposes a $65,000 annual salary for the chair of the commission and $60,000 for each board member.

The bill changes the chief of the commission’s title from “executive director” to “managing director” who will receive a $70,000 annual salary.

The measure removes the commission’s authority to regulate personal cultivation of marijuana, and the authority to license a CNMI government entity. It reduces from 10 to five the number of years of residency for license applicants.

The measure creates an account for marijuana license fees separate from the general fund, and gives the commission chair the expenditure authority.

The bill, in addition, imposes a 15 percent yearly surtax on the total gross revenue of marijuana retailers.

Deleon Guerrero said H.B. 21-13 provides “a defined set of tax fees associated with those wanting to apply for commercial licenses which are determined according to canopy space.”

“In other words,” she added, “the bigger the canopy space, the higher the tax fee.”

She said the bill also states that serving on the commission will be a full-time employment.

“This would require all members of the Cannabis Commission to resign from their current government positions to solely focus on promulgating the rules and regulations critical at the onset of the industry. This is what the commission is waiting for — to officially become a commission,” Deleon Guerrero said.

Once the bill becomes law, she said the commission will have 360 days instead of 180 to promulgate the rules and regulations.

Besides Deleon Guerrero the governor also appointed Matthew Deleon Guerrero to the commission. Other members are Valentino Taisacan Jr. of the Northern Islands, Lawrence Duponcheel of Tinian and Thomas Songsong of Rota.