After months of delays, Guam’s Cannabis Control Board has finally released its proposed rules and regulations for adult use cannabis sales.
The document, which is more than 100 pages long, was expected this April, one year after Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero signed into law the Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019, a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use. But then, as Cannabis Wire reported, the coronavirus pandemic put the Board’s meetings, and much of Guam’s government, on hold.
The U.S. island territory already allows adults who are 21 and older to grow six plants at home, and regulators were given one year to provide the framework for licenses and legal sales. The Board began to meet again in July, and wrapped drafting the regulations in August. Still, the proposed regulations have a long road ahead before adult use sales can begin, including a preliminary cost-impact assessment from the Bureau of Budget and Management Research, public hearings, and approval from lawmakers.
Already, COVID-19 poses yet another threat of delay. With cases on the rise, and Guam under a strict lockdown, the public hearings, which could’ve begun this month, may be on hold for the near term.
“It’s unclear when we may be able to have the public hearing. Guam had a massive spike in COVID-19 positive cases this month. We are currently under a pretty strict lockdown … and since the cases are still trending upward, I’m sure it’s going to extend for at least another week, Vanessa L. Williams, Chair of the Guam Cannabis Control Board, told Cannabis Wire,
The proposed regulations are straightforward. The products allowed include flower, edibles, and concentrates. Licenses will be created for cultivation, testing, product manufacturing, and retail. Each license must be majority owned by a Guam resident who has been a resident for at least three continuous years prior to applying for the license. While there is no language allowing for public consumption spaces, which are allowed in some adult use programs, the definition of a “public place” where cannabis cannot be consumed does not include hotel and motel rooms, which could mean an anticipation of tourism.
“I think at this point we’re really excited about the potential economic impact it will have for our island,” Williams told Cannabis Wire. “Guam is rich in culture and natural beauty, making it an attractive tourist destination for the Asian market and one of the major drivers of our economy. However, the pandemic has halted tourism for the time being. Fortunately we have the political will and community support right now to grow our agriculture industry. I see the cannabis industry as both part of that growing agriculture market and playing a role in rebuilding our tourism economy. The potential for growth is immense in the Asia Pacific region.”
Considering the recent focus on equity and justice in the cannabis industry, there could be pushback against language in Guam’s proposed rules that prevents those in decision-making roles within licensed cannabis companies from having been convicted of manufacturing or delivering cannabis (or any substance in Schedules I and II), in any US jurisdiction.
In nearby Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, where a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use was signed into law in 2018, their Cannabis Commission has already begun to accept applications from those hoping to run adult use businesses. This includes, unlike Guam’s proposed regulations, a “Marijuana Lounge License.” On August 2, the governor’s office declared this “the official opening of the Cannabis Industry within the Commonwealth.”
This article was updated with additional comments from Vanessa L. Williams, Chair of the Guam Cannabis Control Board.