The House of Representatives in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) have passed legislation that would end cannabis prohibition and create a taxation and sales regulation system.
The bill, which would also legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp, passed by a margin of 18-1, with one abstention, reported Forbes.
“The people of the CNMI recognize that the prohibition of marijuana has been terribly misguided and harmful, and our leaders are in touch with the public's sentiment on this issue,” Lawrence Duponcheel of Sensible CNMI said in a statement. “Today, members of the CNMI House of Representatives showed their commitment to honoring the will of the people.”
If the bill is enacted, the CNMI will become the first U.S. jurisdiction to go directly from prohibiting all forms of marijuana to allowing recreational use.
A US territory since 1975, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands consists of 15 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, which are populated by some 55,000 people.
The CNMI will also be the first US territory to fully legalize cannabis through the action of its lawmakers rather a ballot measure.
“The lawmakers and people of CNMI are on track to make history, and more U.S. policymakers would be wise to take notice before the upcoming midterm elections,” Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, told Forbes.
“The true essence of legalization has always been about having safe and legal access to cannabis without fear of arrest and harassment,” said Gerry Hemley, co-founder of Sensible CNMI. “[This bill] was carefully crafted to improve public health, protect children, and keep our communities safe. We hope senators will join their House colleagues in supporting this commonsense measure.”
The CNMI Senate is now expected to take up the House-passed legalization bill.