Guam legalized the adult use of marijuana on Thursday when Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed the contentious recreational cannabis bill into law.

The new law allows those at least 21 years old to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Adults will also be permitted to grow six marijuana plants, but for the time being will not be permitted to buy or sell marijuana. 

“We must regulate this illicit drug that is the most widely used drug in our society,” the governor said. “We have to take it and control it, monitor its use and effects, benefit from its medicinal efforts, allow our people to live in a safer environment.”

The law also creates a Cannabis Control Board that will be tasked with the drug’s testing, manufacturing, licensing, packaging and production. The board has a year to create marijuana regulations, which have to be approved by lawmakers. 

The Cannabis Industry Act of 2019 legalizes the possession and use of marijuana for people 21 and older “in the interest of enhancing revenue for public purposes with the creation of a new industry, enhancing individual freedom, and promoting the efficient use of law enforcement resources.” 

It would take effect immediately upon enactment, although marijuana stores might not open for a year or more.

Sen. Clynt Ridgell, who introduced the bill, said it was modeled on legislation from Colorado, California, the CNMI and other areas.

Here are some questions and answers about what the legislation would and would not allow if it becomes law.

Personal use of marijuana

Does this mean all marijuana will be legal?

No.

  • It will be illegal to sell or give marijuana to anyone under 21, with the exception of medical marijuana. 
  • Driving under the influence of marijuana will remain illegal.
  • Personal use is restricted to an ounce or less.
  • Possession of more than six plants, or more than three mature plants, is not allowed.

What about edibles and oils?

The law allows adult possession of 8 grams or less of cannabis concentrate or cannabis-infused products containing 800 milligrams or less of tetrahydrocannabinol.

Can I grow my own marijuana?

  • Adults 21 years old and older can grow no more than six plants for their personal use. You have to have the consent of the person who owns the property.
  • Of the six plants, no more than three can be mature, flowering plants.
  • Marijuana must be grown in an enclosed, locked place and can’t be visible to the public.

Can I sell marijuana?

  • Marijuana can only be sold by a regulated business, and it must be tested, packaged, labeled and tracked so that it is not supplied to people under 21 or diverted to states or jurisdictions where it is illegal.
  • The law allows adults to give one another less than an ounce of marijuana, immature cannabis plants or the legal amount of edibles and oils “without remuneration.”

Can I smoke or vape marijuana anywhere?

No. Marijuana cannot be publicly consumed. 

Can I bring marijuana through from other places, either through the mail or by carrying it to Guam onboard an aircraft? 

No. Marijuana is still an illegal drug under federal law, and it cannot legally be shipped through the mail or on airplanes. In the U.S., even flying between two airports in a state where marijuana is legal is not permitted under federal law.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, “Possession of marijuana and cannabis infused products, such as Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, is illegal under federal law. TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law, including possession of marijuana and cannabis infused products.” 

Establishing the marijuana industry

When will the stores open?

The law calls for the creation of a Cannabis Control Board within a year, and that board will make rules for regulated marijuana production and sales. Within 90 days after the rules become effective, the board will begin accepting applications.

If an application is submitted and the applicant is in compliance with regulations, an annual registration should be issued within 60 days, or 30 days if it is a renewal.

If the board takes a year to create the rules, and applications are accepted within 90 days, and registrations are issued 60 days later, marijuana could be sold in stores by mid-2020.

How will these businesses be regulated? 

The Cannabis Control Board will create regulations for the “issuance, renewal, suspension, denial or revocation” of registered cannabis establishments. The board will set the application fee, which will be no more than $5,000 with annual adjustments for inflation unless the board “determines a greater fee is necessary to carry out its responsibilities.” The board will develop security, transportation and storage requirements; labeling and packaging requirements; health and safety standards; advertising and display restrictions; and restrictions on how much marijuana can be purchased at any time.

Will marijuana byproducts be legal, such as oils and edibles?

Yes, within limits. The bill allows adults age 21 and over to buy and possess 8 grams or less of cannabis concentrate or any cannabis-infused products containing 800 mg or less of tetrahydrocannabinol.

How will taxes be collected?

  • A Guam excise tax will be charged on the sale or transfer of cannabis from the cultivation facility to the store or manufacturing facility. Cultivation facilities will be charged 15 percent on the dollar value of cannabis sold or transferred unless the cannabis is sold as medical marijuana.
  • The Department of Revenue and Taxation is charged with establishing procedures for the collection of all excise taxes. The Cannabis Control Board may establish an alternate tax rate or structure as part of the rules it develops.

How will the revenue be spent?

Half of the excise tax collected will be deposited into the Cannabis Fund, with 25 percent of that money going to the Department of Public Health and Social Services and 25 percent being divided as follows:

  • 15 percent to Guam Police Department for recruiting and maintaining officers and purchasing equipment and detection devices;
  • 15 percent to Customs and Quarantine for recruiting and maintaining officers and purchasing equipment and detection devices;
  •  20 percent to Rev and Tax;
  • 40 percent to Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center substance abuse treatment, prevention and education;
  • 10 percent to the Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Officer Law Enforcement Section.

The balance is not specified in the legislation.

How can we make sure that products such as edibles are not consumed by underage people?

The Cannabis Control Board is charged with creating “requirements to prevent the sale or diversion of cannabis and cannabis products to persons under the age of 21.” The board must also oversee the “implementation of a ‘seed to sale’ tracking system,” according to the legislation.

Retail workers who sell marijuana to those under 21 will be guilty of a petty misdemeanor. 

Does “seed to sale tracking mean people who buy marijuana will be tracked?

No. The legislation specifically says that to protect individual privacy, the board will not require customers to provide “personal information other than government-issued identification to determine the consumer’s age, and a retail cannabis store shall not be required to acquire or record personal information about consumers.”

Rights of employers, business owners, landlords

Can my employer tell me I can’t use marijuana?

Yes. According to the legislation, nothing in the bill will affect “the rights and obligations of public and private employers to maintain a drug and alcohol-free workplace.” Employers will still be allowed to “have policies prohibiting the use of marijuana by employees and prospective employees in the workplace.” 

Can I tell people they can’t possess marijuana in my business or on my property?

Yes. According to the legislation, nothing in the bill prevents “a person, employer, school, hospital, recreation or youth center, correction facility, corporation” or anyone else who “occupies, owns or controls private property” from prohibiting possession or use of marijuana on the property.

What about people who were previously cited for marijuana violations? 

The legislation does not affect “penalties that were incurred and proceedings that were begun before its effective date.”

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