Mariana Islands

Bryan Chernick

U.S. Territory First to Legalize Cannabis By Legislature

On Friday, Gov. Ralph Torres of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. territory, signed a cannabis legalization bill into law, according to a Forbes by Tom Angell.

The cannabis legislation is the first of its kind, as no other state or U.S. territory has yet to establish a taxed-and-regulated cannabis system via the legislature — all states with adult-use cannabis marketplaces reached that point via direct-to-voter ballot measures. Vermont’s legislature passed a legalization law earlier this year; the law there, however, does not allow for commercial distribution.

CNMI is also the first U.S. jurisdiction to fully legalize adult-use cannabis without first having a medical cannabis program.

“I am proud of our CNMI leadership, citizens and national organizations for working together to thoughtfully develop and approve a progressive piece of legislation that that will improve the quality of life for so many. Together, we are telling the world that we do not feel that our citizens should be stigmatized and criminalized for the responsible adult use of cannabis and that they should no longer be denied access to this life-saving medicine.” — Lawerence J. Duponcheel, co-founder of Sensible CNMI, via Forbes

CNMI’s cannabis law allows for possession of up to one ounce of cannabis flower and plant material; it also legalizes extracts, infused edibles, and similar products. The law creates a structure of licenses for regulators to award to producers, processors, labs, retailers, wholesalers, and cannabis lounges.

Gov. Torres used his line-item veto power to remove some language in the bill before signing it into law, including a previously required $5 permit for cannabis users and a license that would allow a government entity to grow cannabis.

Cannabis advocates are confident that the adult-use legalization in CNMI will add to the already growing pressure on the U.S. federal government to end prohibition.

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