Lawmakers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) — a tiny U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean, near Guam — have voted in favor of cannabis legalization, Tom Angell reports for Forbes. The bill, if signed into law, would end cannabis prohibition for adults and establish a taxed-and-regulated system for the plant; the bill also aims to legalize and establish regimes for industrial hemp and medical cannabis.
“The people of the CNMI recognize that the prohibition of marijuana has been terribly misguided and harmful, and our leaders are in touch with the public’s sentiment on this issue. Today, members of the CNMI House of Representatives showed their commitment to honoring the will of the people.” — Lawrence Duponcheel, spokesperson for Sensible CNMI, via Forbes
The CNMI House of Representatives voted 18-1 (with one abstention) to advance the legalization bill. A similar bill was approved by the Senate in May but the House, after considering the Senate’s bill, decided to tackle the issue with their own legislation. The House’s bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
If approved by the Senate, the bill would move to Gov. Ralph Torres (R) for his signature, but it is not clear whether he would sign his approval — he has previously alluded to concerns about “public safety issues” in regards to legalization.
If the bill is fully approved, CNMI will become the first U.S. jurisdiction to jump straight from full prohibition to a taxed-and-regulated system. Every other state/territory, including Washington D.C., has moved first on medical marijuana and only later took up the issue of adult-use cannabis.
See the Marijuana Policy Project’s bill summary for more information on the proposal.