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House OKs amendments to cannabis law

TO address the concerns raised by the governor, the House of Representatives has passed a bill to amend the cannabis law.

Introduced by Rep. Joseph Deleon Guerrero, House Bill 20-196  was approved by all 17 House members and is now with the Senate which will act on it Tuesday.

Among the amendments was a provision regarding the terms of the five cannabis commissioners.

The amendments stated that two members “shall serve a term of two years while three will serve a term of four years, which will be determined by lottery at the first meeting of the commission.”

The bill will also add a new subsection (k) to require compensation for the commissioners at the rate of $65,000 per annum provided that each commissioner must attend all scheduled meetings unless excused by the chair.

The registration fee for homegrown marijuana was likewise changed from $5 to $25 per person.

Some provisions of the cannabis law were deleted to ensure that marijuana will not be accessible to any person under the age of 21 and will not be used by persons under 21 years old.

Moreover, the bill added language to establish an account separate from the general fund to pay the expenses necessary for the operation of the commission. All license fees and application fees “shall be placed in this account.”

Deleon Guerrero said marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and some agencies receiving federal funding might be affected by the cannabis law. To protect these agencies’ federal funding, a separate account must be established, he added.

In addition, the bill would impose a 15-percent tax on all marijuana products.

In an interview, Deleon Guerrero said, his bill addresses the governor’s line-item vetoes.

“He vetoed items that involved fees and taxes and so we met with the governor and come up with a fair and reasonable fee structure for the application fees and annual licenses and the tax,” Deleon Guerrero said.

“We also established a separate account so that taxes from the marijuana industry would be separated from the general fund. That is important for local agencies that receive federal grants.”

He also noted that the Public School System is concerned that the cannabis law provides an exemption to any person to carry or possess medicinal marijuana at their workplace or in school.

“So we put more teeth to the law and took away the exemptions granted to medical marijuana patients,” Deleon Guerrero said.

“So if you’re a patient, even if you have a prescription, you cannot bring medicinal marijuana to school or to the workplace. There are other provisions in the bill to protect our minors and to prohibit them from being able to go to marijuana lounges even if they have a prescription. Only parents or caregivers can buy medicinal marijuana and not a patient who is under 21 years old. We improved the cannabis law so that  all concerns will be addressed,” Deleon Guerrero said.

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/109824-house-oks-amendments-to-cannabis-law

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