Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres Friday signed H.B. 20-178 into law Friday. With this, Northern Mariana Islands became the first U.S. territory to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use.
With the Governor's signature, it is also the first U.S. jurisdiction to do so through its legislature, rather than via ballot initiative.
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)—a tiny Pacific territory with a population of just over 50,000.
H.B. 20-178, titled the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018, was approved 6-0-2 in the Senate last week and 18-1-1 in the House on August 8.
Under the new law, it is now legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana (one ounce), marijuana-infused products (16 ounces in solid form, 72 ounces in liquid form), and marijuana extracts (five grams).
Regulators will issue licenses for cannabis producers, testing facilities, processors, retailers, wholesalers and lounges and the home cultivation of a small number of plants will be allowed as per the new law.
CNMI is the first place in the U.S. to launch a commercial cannabis legalization system through an act of lawmakers—as opposed to by voters with a ballot initiative. Vermont legislators passed a bill to end marijuana prohibition this year, but it only allows for possession and home cultivation, not legal sales.
The territory is also the first U.S. jurisdiction to go from having cannabis totally illegal to allowing recreational use without first having a medical marijuana program.
In U.S, eight states namely Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, voters have adopted the laws legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use. However, the lawmakers in Vermont and voters in D.C. have adopted laws that make marijuana possession and cultivation legal for adults, but they do not regulate commercial production or sales.