Despite a series of delays due to COVID-19, Guam’s cannabis regulators have taken yet another major step toward launching the U.S. island territory’s adult use cannabis industry.
Over the weekend, the Cannabis Control Board wrapped its third and final day of public hearings on its proposed regulations for cannabis sales. The rules were expected in April, one year after Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero signed into law the Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019, but, as Cannabis Wire reported, they were delayed until September due to COVID-19. Those 21 and older are already allowed to grow six plants at home.
The regulations, in their current form, allow for sales of cannabis flower, edibles, and concentrates. The business license types available will be for cultivation, testing, product manufacturing, and retail, and each license must be majority-owned by a Guam resident.
Throughout the hearings, speakers often returned to the subject of vertical integration. Some were in favor of allowing a single entity to own licenses at each stage of the supply chain, while others feared such a move would inevitably allow a handful of companies to control the industry.
Several early speakers called for vertical integration, including Devyn Suzuki of Atmosphere Cannabis Collective, David Cruz and Darissa Cruz of Pacific Roots LLC, and Andrea Pellacani, of Grassroots Guam.
“I wanted to reiterate an important part of what they said, which was the ability for cannabis businesses to be able to integrate. I don’t think they should be forced to vertically integrate, but they should be given the option. In other words, you can apply for one of each license,” Pellacani said at the start of her testimony.
On the final day, in response to a question about licensed cannabis consumption spaces, which had come up more than once, the board made it clear that it is something they would consider while finalizing the rules. Another issue that arose that the board said it would consider is whether edibles could be in “gummy worm” or “lollipop” form (cannabis regulations often forbid forms that would be considered to be appealing to children).
And, in response to questions about whether an entity had been selected for the seed-to-sale tracking system, the board responded that a request for proposals is forthcoming.
Raj Mukherji, who is both an assembly member in New Jersey and also the CEO of CannaPharmacy and CannTech, which both hold cannabis business licenses in the northeast, indicated he plans to enter the Guam industry.
“We’re talking with local Guam residents to try to potentially come into that jurisdiction and help create jobs and provide pharmaceutical grade quality flower and extracts and bring our IP to help local Guam residents,” he said.
Mukherji suggested a limit on the number of licenses issued, to “avoid oversaturation.” He suggested that more than three growers, and about double that number of shops, “might be hard on the industry.”
Local resident Amanda Wooley spoke toward the end of the final hearing of “a big concern” about “special interests from off island or from big money that wants to come in and monopolize our market.”
“We haven’t even gotten it off the ground,” Wooley said, of Guam’s adult use industry. “And I really think it’s important for us to really look at protecting the small businesses.” She then turned from caps to vertical integration, asking, “Why would we even consider going with vertical integration?”
Whether the Board would revise the regulations to allow for vertical integration remains up in the air. On the other hand, they have been clear about not wanting to limit licenses.
Once the Board finalizes the rules, lawmakers must approve them.
In the 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.”