Hearings on cannabis draft rules set for November

RULES: A marijuana plant is shown in this file photo. Public hearings on the draft rules for cannabis retail operations and cultivation will be held from Nov. 12-14. Post file photo

Public hearings on the 133-page Guam adult recreational cannabis draft rules will be held from Nov. 12 to 14, the Cannabis Control Board said on Thursday.

Because Guam is still under Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1, the public hearings will be held virtually.

Public input is a key component before the rules become final, and before any cannabis selling, buying or trading is allowed.

The board tasked to roll out the cannabis industry regulations will also start accepting written public comments on the proposed rules from around Oct. 30 to Nov. 14.

Cannabis Control Board Chairwoman Vanessa Williams and other board members wanted to make sure everyone will have a chance to be publicly heard, so the public hearings will be held on weekdays and a weekend.

  • Thursday, Nov. 12, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 13, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 14, 9 a.m. to noon

Anyone planning on entering the recreational marijuana retail market, which is expected to reach $133 million in annual sales once the industry is in full operation, is encouraged to review the proposed rules. This is based on pre-COVID estimates.

Board members Adrian Cruz and Therese Arriola said the board's role during the hearings will be to listen to public comments on the proposed rules.

The board will then reconvene on Nov. 18 at 9 a.m. to deliberate on the written and verbal comments received.

A designated email address for the board to accept the written comments will be released before the end of the month. The draft rules will also be posted online soon, board members said.

Cruz, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture, said members of the public who want to review the paper copy of the draft rules can also set an appointment to visit the Department of Agriculture.

Cost impact

Board members said they will complete the legally required preliminary cost impact assessment before Oct. 30, in time for the written comment and public hearing periods.

"If we can't have the cost impact statement, we can't have the public hearing," Williams said.

This requirement will determine whether the implementation of the proposed rules will have an annual economic impact to the general public of more than $500,000.

A pre-COVID study on cannabis use estimates 14,500 adult Guam residents and 66,000 tourists will take advantage of recreational cannabis in the first full year of the industry taking off.

Seed-to-sale tracking

The board, through the Department of Public Health and Social Services, submitted to the attorney general on Sept. 2 a revised draft request for proposals for a seed-to-sale tracking system. The tracking system will follow every plant legally grown and sold on Guam.

Without this system, "it's going to be hard to manage" the industry, said Department of Revenue and Taxation Director Dafne Shimizu.

As of Thursday, the board had yet to receive feedback from the Office of the Attorney General, board members said.

Legalization

Guam legalized the adult recreational use of marijuana in April through a law authored by Sen. Clynton Ridgell. The senator hopes to have the rules officially adopted by GovGuam before the end of the year.

Individuals 21 years and older can use cannabis and grow up to six plants at home. It is also legal to possess up to 1 ounce of dried cannabis flower in public.

But while the law immediately took effect in April 2019, commercial manufacturing and sales have been on hold until regulations are finalized to manage the new industry.

The board worked on coming up with the draft rules for more than a year, hoping to ensure that Guam has a safe, quality cannabis industry, which also encourages a competitive market without unreasonably high barriers to entry.

COVID-19 has delayed the process of finalizing the rules for six months now.

Under the proposed rules, a cannabis business must have at least 51% ownership by a Guam resident. The proposed permits and fees can be as high as $15,000.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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