Monique B. Sablan

CNMI Cannabis Commission Managing Director Monique B. Sablan appears before the House of Representatives to testify in support of House Bill 22-78 during a House session on Thursday.

THE CNMI Cannabis Commission on Thursday expressed support for House Bill 22-78, which Rep. Joseph Leepan Guerrero introduced to make significant changes to Public Law 20-66 or the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018.

Co-sponsored by Reps. Roy Ada, Angel A. Demapan, John Paul P. Sablan, Patrick H. San Nicolas, and Ralph N. Yumul, H.B. 22-78 clarifies that the age limit in the law should not apply to persons between 18 and 21 years old who have a valid recommendation for medical marijuana use issued by a licensed physician.

The proposed amendment also removes Sept. 30 of each year as the expiration date of all licenses. In addition, it will require licensees to maintain their books on premises, and allow the commission to decide which information about a licensee's business operation can be disclosed to the public.

But H.B. 22-78 gives the Office of the Public Auditor access to information pertaining to cannabis business operation, “including but not limited to all forms, applications, contracts, security plans, lists, internal procedures, orders or documents of any kind without regard to the manner of storage of the information, be it physical, electronic or otherwise.”

Moreover, Guerrero's bill creates a CNMI Cannabis Commission Regulatory Revolving Fund.

Monique B. Sablan, managing director of the CNMI Cannabis Commission, testified before the House on Thursday to support the bill.

Sablan said medical marijuana patients who fall within the 18 to 21 age bracket have been exempted from certain prohibitions set forth in the law. So H.B. 22-78 clarifies the privileges for persons within this age bracket.

On the removal of Sept. 30 as the license expiration date, Sablan said the commission anticipates the licensing of several new cannabis businesses.

Hence, an across-the-board expiration date for all licensees will pose an administrative burden on the commission and may cause unwarranted delays in renewals, she added.

As for the public disclosure of certain information, she said when cannabis growers applied for a license, they were required to submit security plans that involved surveillance, security measures, vaults, cannabis storage and other sensitive information.

She said the proposed amendment to the law "will protect the licensees and their licensed establishments from possible theft, breach of security information or other security issues that may be promoted through public disclosure."

But to ensure accountability, H.B. 22-78 will allow the disclosure of information to OPA, she added.

Regarding the creation of a regulatory revolving fund, Sablan said it will provide “our agency the budgetary security needed to regulate this new and growing industry."

She added, “These funds within this account will ensure that the divisions under the commission are able to hire competent staff; provide cannabis regulatory training for staff; purchase necessary supplies/equipment; purchase a cannabis tracking system; and fund other needs that support our daily regulatory duties and mandates.”

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