CNMI cannabis commissioners sworn in

CANNABIS COMMISSION: Gov. Ralph DLG Torres joins the newly sworn-in CNMI cannabis commissioners for a group photo. From left, Rota’s Thomas Songsong, the Northern Islands’ Valentin Taisacan Jr., the governor, Saipan’s Nadine Deleon Guerrero, Tinian’s Journie Hofschneider and Saipan’s Matt Deleon Guerrero. Also in photo is former Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, left, back to the camera, the governor’s special adviser on the cannabis industry. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN - After being sworn in by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on Thursday, the five-member CNMI Cannabis Commission convened for its organizational meeting that marked the beginning of a new industry in the commonwealth.

Elected chairwoman of the commission was Nadine Deleon Guerrero of Saipan; vice chairman, Matt Deleon Guerrero, also of Saipan; treasurer, Valentino Taisacan Jr. of the Northern Islands; secretary, Journie Hofschneider of Tinian; and Thomas Songsong of Rota.

The chairwoman, the treasurer and the secretary will serve for four years while the vice chairman and Songsong will serve for two years.

“We are ready,” Nadine Deleon Guerrero said in an interview. “It’s been a long time coming so a lot of us have already put together the things that we want to implement.”

She said the draft regulation will be ready “maybe within the next couple of weeks.”

She added that the commissioners “just want to make sure that everybody is on the same page, and that we agree with each other.”

After swearing in the commissioners, the governor asked them to “please look at what we can promulgate as soon as you can and start this industry going.”

The governor also asked them to “just be mindful also of our culture and take advantage of our tourism industry.”

At the end of the day, he said, “we want to make sure there are rules and regulations that protect us.”

“This our new commission,” the governor added. “We have a lot of work to do. It will be a definitely exciting commission, and you guys have a lot ahead of you.”

The governor said the commission and the new industry will go through trial and error. “It’s not going to be a perfect approach,” he added. “But I do know that the good intention is there. So we are going to be trying a lot of different things. I said it in the past and I said it again, you just need to go out and see things firsthand — see … what caters to our islands.”

To the members of the public, the governor said: “Do not think that it’s okay now to smoke [cannabis] in public. Please relax and be patient, just chill until we promulgate the regulation.”

And once it is out, the governor said the public should “use cannabis responsibly, just as you do with alcohol.”

In their organization meeting that followed immediately after the swearing-in ceremony, the commissioners said they will formally ask the Office of the Attorney General for legal representation, and will put out a job vacancy announcement for a managing director.

The commission will meet again at 2 p.m. on Sept. 17.