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    Friday, September 20, 2019-5:04:46P.M.






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Governor signs bill to amend cannabis law

GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres on Wednesday signed a bill amending the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act, but he also asked potential marijuana users to be patient and wait for the Cannabis Commission to promulgate the rules and regulations.

Introduced by House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan, House Bill 21-13, which is now Public Law 21-5, addresses the governor’s line-item vetoes when he signed the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act in Sept. 2018

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Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signs  Public Law 21-5 which amends the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act, in his conference room on Wednesday.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

These included the annual registration fee, the commission’s authority to license entities, and the number of years of residency for license applicants.

Cannabis Commissioner Nadine Guerrero said they will start drafting rules before the 180-day deadline is up.

The other commissioners are Matt Deleon Guerrero, Valentino Taisakan, Lawrence Duponcheel and Thomas Songsong.

In his proposed budget for fiscal year 2020, the governor allotted $580,038 for the Cannabis Commission. But since the commission needs to move forward now, he has asked the Legislature to appropriate $500,000 as a startup up fund.

Asked about the funding source, he said: “We’re working on that.”

Before signing the new law on Wednesday, Torres thanked the Legislature for addressing the concerns he mentioned in his line-item vetoes.

“This bill is not a perfect bill,” he added. “We’re going to go through some trials. But this is what the commission needs in order to promulgate the rules and regulations.”

House Floor Leader John Paula Sablan thanked the lawmakers who worked hard to address the governor’s concerns. He also wished the commissioner the best of luck.

Sen. Sixto Igisomar, one of the advocates of cannabis legalization, is urging people to be responsible when using marijuana.

Legalizing it doesn’t mean people can irresponsibly use it, he said. “Use it wisely,” he added.

Gerry Hemley, legalization advocate and co-founder of Sensible CNMI, in a statement said: “I would like to thank our Legislature and the governor in passing the cannabis amendment bill into law as it will now allow for the Cannabis Commission to officially begin…promulgating the rules and regulations for the commercial aspects of the cannabis industry.”

More importantly, he said, “home cultivation begins as of today even though the rules and regulations and home registry system are not in place, as long as the household complies with the provisions set forth by law.”

He said “this means that those of legal age can now grow cannabis for medicinal or non-medicinal purposes without fear of arrest and harassment, which is the true essence of legalization in the first place. However, there is more to progress in regards to cannabis policy such as a company’s internal policies acknowledging the legal use of cannabis by employees during off hours like the way alcohol is handled, as well as financial institutions working with cannabis businesses, etc. The cannabis amendment law…is a step forward to acknowledging the realities of the cannabis culture made up of individuals from all walks of life and the legal industry ahead.”