Potential cannabis lab investor upbeat about draft rules

BOARD MEETING: Cannabis Control Board members meet in August 2019 to discuss the need for a computerized seed-to-sale system, which is considered critical to the success of the recreational marijuana program. Post file photo

A group of former Marines interested in opening a cannabis testing laboratory on Guam is upbeat about the completion of the 133-page draft rules for the recreational cannabis industry on island.

Local officials have, for years, said the success of a medical or recreational cannabis industry hinges mostly on the existence of an independent testing laboratory, which they said would cost about $1 million to set up.

Guam resident Brian Santos on Friday said he and fellow former Marines in California and Utah have been waiting for the draft rules, to help them with their plan to apply to operate an independent cannabis testing laboratory on Guam.

"We are very excited that the draft rules are out," Santos told The Guam Daily Post. "We finally have a working document for Guam that we can all review and provide comment on."

Under the proposed rules, a cannabis business must have at least 51% ownership by a Guam resident.

A Guam resident is defined in the draft rules as someone who has maintained a residential address on Guam for no less than three years prior to the application for a cannabis establishment license.

"If we succeed in our application, cannabis will go through our brick-and-mortar laboratory, which is independent of, or not connected to, the government," Santos said.

He said their potential seed investment is at least $1 million.

They have also been inquiring with the Department of Public Health and Social Services about applying for a license for a testing facility, he said.

The potential investor group hopes to participate in the public hearings and public comment period to be provided by the Cannabis Control Board, led by Chairwoman Vanessa L. Williams.

Public review process

Public input is a key component before the rules become final.

Sen. Clynton Ridgell, author of the bill that legalized recreational marijuana on Guam in 2019, believes it will take until the end of the year to have the rules in place.

"My goal is to have the rules officially adopted by GovGuam by the end of the year," he said Friday.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the process of completing the draft rules, which were supposed to be adopted by April.

With Guam still on lockdown and under the highest level of COVID-19 restrictions, the Cannabis Control Board is hoping to find a way to start the public review process.

After the board's public hearings on the proposed rules, the rules will be sent to the Legislature.

"We have 75 days to hold a public hearing on the rules and 90 days to act on the rules, or else the rules lapse and become approved by default," Ridgell said.

The proposed rules spell out the fees. For a cannabis testing facility license, the application fee is $2,000; a new license fee is $2,000; a license renewal fee is $2,000; and the fee for a permit to operate is $2,000.

A cannabis testing facility, in the draft rules, means an entity licensed to analyze and certify the safety and potency of cannabis.

Only a licensed cannabis testing facility may collect and transport cannabis or cannabis samples to and from a cannabis testing facility, the draft rules state.

Potential for the industry

A pre-COVID-19 study by the Cannabis Control Board estimated that the recreational marijuana retail market has the potential to reach $133 million in annual sales once the industry is in full operation. With tourism at a standstill, it could take longer to realize those sales since the study estimated prior to COVID-19 that some 66,000 tourists would take advantage of the opportunity to legally use cannabis on Guam.

The study also estimated 14,500 adult Guam residents will use cannabis in the first full year.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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