U.S. Territory Could Vote On Legalizing Marijuana

Published on August 14, 2017, By Tom Angell

Marijuana News Politics

Activists in Michigan are well on their way toward collecting enough signatures to place a marijuana legalization initiative on the state’s 2018 ballot. A medical cannabis proposal has already qualified in Oklahoma, and advocates in Missouri and elsewhere are working to gather support for similar measures.

But mainland U.S. states aren’t the only places where American voters could be asked to legalize marijuana next year.

Under a new bill in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Senate, residents of the tiny U.S territory could also have a chance to end cannabis prohibition next November.

If the legislation, filed this month by Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R), gets majority support from CNMI’s 20 House members and nine senators and is signed by Gov. Ralph Torres (R), marijuana wouldn’t immediately become legal.

Instead, the question would then be put before the territory’s roughly 18,000 registered voters.

If they approve it, adults over 21 years of age would be allowed to possess four ounces of marijuana, 16 ounces of cannabis products in solid form, 72 ounces of marijuana products in liquid form and 10 grams of cannabis extract. They would also be allowed to grow 12 mature plants and 24 seedlings at home. Certified medical patients would be allowed to grow more with doctors’ permission.

A Cannabis Commission would be charged with setting regulations for legalization’s implementation by June 1, 2019 and would be directed to begin receiving marijuana business license applications by July 1.

A wide variety of licenses would be created, including for producers, wholesalers, processors, retail establishments, testing labs and social use lounges.

Licenses could not be issued to applicants “without proof of continued CNMI residency within the past 10 years prior to the effective date of the act,” a provision that would expire after five years, thus giving longtime residents a significant head start in the newly legal market.

Localities would be allowed to ban marijuana businesses under the proposal.

Taxes and fees would be set by the legislature, with medical cannabis patients exempt from taxation.

The Cannabis Commission would maintain a registry of people authorized to cultivate cannabis at home, subject to a registration fee of no more than $100.00 per year.

Igisomar introduced a similar bill last year, but it did not advance in time to put a legalization question on the 2016 ballot.

CNMI is located in the Pacific, north of Guam, and has roughly 53,000 residents.

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