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Cannabis commission meets 120-day deadline

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THE CNMI Cannabis Commission has met its 120-day statutory deadline, Chairwoman Nadine Deleon Guerrero said on Tuesday during a virtual press briefing on KKMP radio.

“I want to thank my board for seeing it through and making sure that that happened,” she added. “It took a lot of discussions and a lot of meetings with other agencies, but it happened, and we were able to meet the deadline, so

Monique Sablan

I’m very pleased with that.”

She said that despite the global Covid-19 pandemic, the commission has accomplished a lot, including allowing a 90-day period for public comments.

“That period has since closed, and now we have the promulgation of our actual official regulations…. We turned them in on June 23, and we just heard back from the [Office of the Attorney General] yesterday. There was a technicality that we have to fix before [the regulations are] published in the Law Revision Commission’s website… We should be done [with that] by the end of the week,” Deleon Guerrero said.

She noted that the commission has a contingency plan in place, “so if something doesn’t materialize, we have a backup plan….”

Moreover, the commission now has office space on Capital Hill, thanks to the administration.

“It was a difficult task to secure that building. Again, we did have a contract in place to get into a commercial space in January. Then, when austerity happened, we had to backtrack and kind of see where we were at financially. We didn’t want to get ourselves into something that would have hounded us for another year if financial constraints continue,” she said.

“I want to say that we can be in the office by next month. There [are] some electrical issues and some plumbing issues. The building hasn’t been occupied for five years, so we’re having to do some infrastructure work there, but as far as the applications are concerned, we have them; we’re ready to go. We just need a building to get into.”

Lawmakers appropriated $25,000 for the cannabis commission in late June.

Deleon Guerrero said the commission has a number of investors lined up, mainly based in Washington and Boston.

“The good news is that we have investors that are interested…. Lord knows [that] we need revenue-generating opportunities right now, so we are focusing on those, we’re working hard with our one employee,” she added, referring to commission managing director, Monique Sablan.

Sablan said the commission has been “receiving a lot of inquiries from the community, wondering when are we going to open, where are the applications, [and] what is the status of the cannabis industry.”

She said, “The most that we can say right now is we are getting it done… We do have the applications ready. They’re ready to go, ready to launch. We also have a website that is also under construction, that is being done internally.”

She said, “Like every other agency in the CNMI, we are also affected by the…economic downturn that’s happening at the moment, but we also know that we play a very significant role in improving the economy, helping the economy, and bettering the economy, so we are really working diligently to get everything going.”

She said the commission has received a lot of support from both the administration and the Legislature, and has been in constant communication with other departments and agencies, such as the Division of Revenue and Taxation.

“When we say that our office is not necessarily ready to open, it’s because there are some safety hazards and security things that we need to fix first and we are working on them right now.”

Sablan said the commission intends to hire more personnel once there is sufficient funding.

Nadine Deleon Guerrero

“We’re working on not only limited personnel, but a limited budget as well…but what’s important is that we jump-start this new industry, that we get going, and start taking off already,” Deleon Guerrero said.

The commission has no set date for the opening of its office and the launching of its website, though Deleon Guerrero said they may occur sometime in August.

The emergency and proposed regulations for the Cannabis Commission can be found on the CNMI Law Revision website:

https://cnmilaw.org/pdf/cnmiregister/2020_Volume_42/2020_Number_03e.pdf

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