The latest location to legalize marijuana in the United States is a place you’ve likely never heard of. That’s because it isn’t a state. It’s the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a Pacific territory of about 50,000 people north of Guam.
On September 21, Gov. Ralph Torres (R) signed legislation that allows for adults over the age of 21 to use cannabis, becoming the first American territory to do so. It is the first American jurisdiction to jump from cannabis being totally illegal to now becoming recreationally legal, without first having a medical marijuana program in place.
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Already a tourism destination thanks to its gorgeous beaches, one of the most progressive cannabis laws in America should only help to draw even more travelers. CNMI is also the first U.S. jurisdiction to approve cannabis legalization through legislation. Though Vermont legalized cannabis through a similar process, it only legalized cannabis usage and home cultivation. There remains no legal system for cannabis sales in the state.
CNMI residents will be allowed to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, in addition to edibles and concentrates. Licenses for growers, testers, retailers, and lounges will soon be issued by regulators, though residents are also allowed to cultivate a small number of plants in their homes.
“Today, our people made history. We took a stand to legalize marijuana in the CNMI for recreational, medical, and commercial use,” Gov. Torres said in a statement.
However there was initial concern whether Torres would sign the legislation after it was sent to his desk for. Torres had expressed concern for public safety, but eventually made the step forward for CNMI. He also vetoed a rule that would’ve required recreational users to obtain a $5 USD license. CNMI’s government still must appoint a regulator committee for cannabis, as well as regulation around fees and taxes, but the small territory could present a blueprint for future lawmakers.