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Feds, zoning rules hinder NMI cannabis industry

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FEDERAL authority over waters surrounding the CNMI and Commonwealth zoning rules are hindering the  local cannabis industry, the CNMI Cannabis Commission told senators on Wednesday.

During a meeting in the Senate chamber, the commission updated the Senate Committee on Cannabis and Gaming on the progress of launching the new industry.

The commission said it is now receiving applications for registry cards, and is ready to open its office next month.

But the commission officials also shared  some of the “roadblocks” facing the new industry.

The commission managing director, Monique Sablan, said the zoning office requires applicants to apply for a conditional use permit, which involves a “lengthy process,” and requires applicants to submit various documents and participate in a public hearing before the zoning board decides on whether to approve or reject a permit application.

 Cannabis Commission Managing Director Monique Sablan left, and adviser, Joseph Deleon Guerrero listen to the senators. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

“So that is…one of the main obstacles that we have been going through, but we are working with these applicants in trying to see what we can do,” she added.

The adviser to the cannabis commission, former Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero, said problems may also arise in the interisland transport of cannabis.

He said in the states that have legalized cannabis, transportation within the state is allowed.

Here in the Commonwealth, Deleon Guerrero added, “we don’t have dry land between our islands.”

He said the Department of Public Safety and CNMI Customs acknowledge that cannabis is legal in the Commonwealth so they would not stop the transportation of marijuana from one island to another. But federal agencies mandated to uphold federal laws, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, have jurisdiction over the “navigable” waters surrounding the CNMI.

“They have that  jurisdiction [over] waters, so in the event they come upon and find marijuana on a vessel they may confiscate it,” he said, adding that the commission has already raised this issue with the CNMI attorney general.

 

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