Deep in the Pacific, lawmakers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) sent a bill to the governor to legalize marijuana. The legislation was voted in at 6-0, which speaks volumes to popular opinion.
Governor Ralph Torres has 28 days to sign the bill or if he doesn’t, it becomes law automatically. If the bill is enacted, it will make CNMI the first U.S. jurisdiction to go from having outright prohibition straight to legalization.
It’s the most progressive bill ever concocted by lawmakers and if it passes it will be the first true example of legalization via legislation. Eight of the nine states plus D.C. all voted in their measures for legalization and, though Vermont passed a lower level law for possession and growing your own, it didn’t allow for sales.
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Let’s not get ahead of ourselves on the potential for this latest legalization just yet though. Gov. Torres has expressed concern over public wellbeing if cannabis were to be legalized. Still, advocates and activists are hoping that he will either sign the bill into law or simply do nothing, thereby enacting the law.
After three years in the Senate, Gerry Palacios Hemley of the advocacy group Sensible CNMI told Marijuana Moment that, “The only thing left to do was act on it and vote.” Said vote took less than 7 minutes to pass.
Karen O’Keefe, Marijuana Policy Project’s state policies director, said the following in a statement,“This is a historic moment, as it is the first time a governing body in the U.S. has ever enacted legislation to both end marijuana prohibition and establish a system of regulation to replace it. Adults and medical cannabis patients will finally be able to access marijuana safely and legally, and products will be regulated and controlled to ensure they are safe for consumers. This legislation will allow for the establishment of new businesses that create jobs and generate new tax revenue that can support important programs and services.”
If the bill were to be enacted, it would also mean that those over 21 years of age and those who are younger, but qualify for medical, will be able to possess up to an ounce, and also carry and imbibe in infused products and extracts. Growing your own ganja will be allowed and state licenses will be issued by regulators for cannabis manufacturers, lab testing facilities, retail and wholesale operations and lounges.
There’s a chance that the Governor will sign the bill immediately, there’s a chance he’ll just say no and there’s the chance that he’ll stay neutral and let the bill pass on its own. It’s an exciting time for CNMI, and will be especially so if the law is enacted.