Cannabis board completes review of draft rules; penalty provisions pending

RULES: A marijuana plant is shown in a Guam location. A review of the draft rules for cannabis has been conducted but penalty provisions are pending. Post file photo

The Cannabis Control Board on Thursday completed its review of the draft recreational cannabis regulations, with the caveat that provisions on civil penalties will be added later, among other things.

"It's very difficult to regulate (an industry) when there is no penalty or teeth to the regulations," said CCB Vice Chairwoman Dafne Shimuzu, who's also the director of the Department of Revenue and Taxation.

Additional feedback from the Guam Fire Department and the Guam Police Department will also be weighed later, as board members were pressed for time to get the draft rules moving.

The 2019 law that legalized recreational cannabis on Guam required the board to adopt the rules within a year, or by early April 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic set that back.

The rules can only be finalized and adopted after the public has the chance to review it.

No public hearings have been set because the draft rules still have to go through other reviews.

CCB Chairwoman Vanessa Williams said the next step is for the draft rules to be sent to the Compiler of Laws for organization and cohesion, and a preliminary cost assessment by the Bureau of Budget and Management Research.

"In the interest of time, we're already way past our deadline. I think we should move forward and change as we see fit," said board member Adrian Cruz, who's with the Department of Agriculture.

He and Williams said the board can still work on the civil penalties provisions even while the Compiler of Laws is reviewing and organizing the draft rules.

The attorney general, they said, will also be reviewing the draft rules even after the public hearing process.

Williams said the board failed to meet its mandate to finalize and adopt the rules within the one-year window set by law partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she said the board needs to move the process to the next level.

The board also agreed to "mirror' the Medical Marijuana Laboratory regulations in the draft recreational marijuana rules.

"That completes our review of draft language for the rules and regulations," Williams said at the meeting, which lasted more than 2.5 hours.

Board member Therese Arriola of the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center noted members seemed to be repeating their arguments on portions of the draft rules that they'd already debated on at length for weeks.

The draft rules already went through deletions, additions and revisions, and most recently was trimmed from more than 50 pages to 38. With Thursday's discussions, the number of pages shrank further.

The board has not made public any of the versions of the draft rules but Williams on Thursday posted them on-screen during the meeting via Zoom.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board heard from members of the Guam Banking and Insurance Board and representatives from Bank of Guam on the banking aspect of a Guam cannabis industry, including whether cannabis money can be accepted and deposited by banks.

Bank of Guam representatives asked the board for a copy of the draft cannabis rules so the bank "can begin to assess the risks associated with a cannabis industry on Guam."

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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