Authored by Rep. Marco T. Peter, House Bill 21-55, which is now Public Law 21-25, allows the Department of Lands and Natural Resources-Division of Agriculture to regulate the hemp industry in the CNMI “consistent with the federal requirements.”

Hemp is similar to marijuana, but its tetrahydrocannabinol or THC level is less than 0.3% and it is grown specifically for industrial purposes. Marijuana’s THC level ranges between 5% and 35%.

H.B. 21-55 states that hemp can be diligently refined into variations of commercial products such as paper, clothing, textiles, biodegradable plastics, biofuel, oil, food, among other things.

Peter introduced the measure after the enactment of U.S. Public Law 115-334 or the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

The federal law removes hemp as a Schedule 1 controlled substance and provides for the regulation of the hemp industry at the state level.

But the law also requires the state or territory department responsible for agriculture to develop a regulatory structure following the federal requirements and submit a regulatory plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval.

The bill states that in the absence of an approved local regulatory plan, the federal government would regulate the hemp industry at the federal level, preempting the Commonwealth’s ability to regulate the industry.

With the enactment of P.L. 21-25, CNMI hemp producers may now be eligible for federal funding from certain federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The measure states that “hemp will provide an exceptional opportunity that will allow for our islands to stimulate our economy.”

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