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Lawmakers approve funding for cannabis commission

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THE Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation on Thursday amended House Local Bill 21-49 to reallocate $25,000 from the Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance to the CNMI Cannabis Commission for office equipment and renovations.

Sen. Vinnie Sablan, who also serves as delegation floor leader, proposed this amendment, noting that the commission has been without an official office and needs a firm location.

“When the commission started, they were operating, in the absence of an office, out of the conference room of the [Commonwealth] Casino Commission,” said the senator, adding that an offer was later made to the commission director under Public Law 21-05.

He said, “This movement of funds is more so like an investment [in which] you will see a return once the permitting process, the applications start going, [and] the industry will start taking off.”

 

Last week, the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation approved $25,000 in funding for the CNMI Cannabis Commission. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

He added that the new location for the cannabis commission office will be in the old Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary building on Capital Hill, which has been vacant since Typhoon Soudelor.

“The contracts [for the property] were being negotiated, but, unfortunately, fell into this pandemic. Therefore, funds were taken away from the [cannabis] commission, as they were taken away from all other agencies and boards,” said Sen. Sablan, highlighting that funds are still needed for the permanent home of the commission, which still has post-typhoon structural damage.

The delegation voted in favor of the amendments, granting the commission the $25,000 in funding.

Cannabis Commission managing director Monique Sablan said, “The funding will be used for renovations. We do plan to ensure that the office is secure. We will also be fixing all of the nooks and crannies that currently exist.”

She added, “It will also go towards supplies. We will be printing our own licenses [and] our own homegrown registry cards. The applications are pretty much finalized. It’s just a matter of having a space to begin the process.”

“We’re very fortunate to have really great partners within the government and in the community as well,” she added, “whether it be having to just print simple documents at a certain agency, or having a small, little office space to work out of the casino commission. We’re very grateful to finally have some finances to assist us with opening our office.”

With the opening of the commission office and the official launch of their website, its managing director said the commission can finally proceed with releasing commercial applications and homegrown registry applications.

“That’s where the money could start flowing in,” she said.

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