- By Emmanuel T. Erediano – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
BY a vote of 14 to 4, the House of Representative on Friday passed the Senate version of the bill to amend the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act.
H.B. 21-13 now goes to the governor.
House Minority Leader Edwin Propst, Reps. Tina Sablan, Edmund Villagomez and Sheila Babauta voted no. Reps. Ralph Yumul and Richard Lizama were absent.
The bill as amended by the Senate restores the hemp restriction that was in the original bill. It also reduces from $60,000 to $55,000 the proposed annual salary of the cannabis commissioners, and removes the four-year qualification for cannabis work experience for the commission’s managing director.
Authored by House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan, H.B. 21-13 addresses the line-item vetoes of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres when he signed the Cannabis Act last year.
These include the $5 annual registration fee per person which the governor found insufficient. The bill raises it to $75 per person.
It also proposes to remove the cannabis commission’s authority to license a CNMI government entity to cultivate marijuana which, the governor said, leaves the door open for the Commonwealth and its subdivisions to engage in permitted growing of marijuana or hemp on public lands. This may indicate to the U.S. Department of Justice that the CNMI does not have a robust regulatory system, the governor said.
H.B. 21-13 would also reduce the residency requirement for a license applicant from 10 to 5 years.
The 10-year residency requirement would “deter the potential growth of our cannabis market as its plain reading provides that only new businesses may attain licenses,” the governor.
In addition, H.B. 21-13 proposes to remove the $250 application processing fee, which the governor said “is unfair to a diverse group of applicants.”