The next time you cynically pump fake about running away to the islands, you may want to consider the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), where marijuana was legalized by lawmakers on Friday. Read that again. Lawmakers—not voters—signed the legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana into law. This is a first for the U.S., making the small Pacific territory (population: 50,000) a trailblazer in that regard.
“I am proud of our CNMI leadership, citizens and national organizations for working together to thoughtfully develop and approve a progressive piece of legislation that that will improve the quality of life for so many,” Lawerence J. Duponcheel, co-founder of the advocacy group Sensible CNMI, stated. “Together, we are telling the world that we do not feel that our citizens should be stigmatized and criminalized for the responsible adult use of cannabis and that they should no longer be denied access to this life-saving medicine.”
Along with being able to possess an ounce of marijuana, residents are also allowed to use marijuana-infused products and extracts. And not only is CNMI the first U.S. jurisdiction to make such a move, but it’s also the first to go from weed being entirely legal to recreational use being allowed—and without a medical marijuana program being put it in place first.
“This is the first legislatively enacted law in the U.S. that taxes and regulates marijuana for adults’ use, but it will be far from the last,” Karen O’Keefe, state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project told Forbes. “New Jersey could follow suit within weeks, and as many as five more state legislatures could do so within the next year. Public support for legalizing marijuana is strong and growing, and elected officials are increasingly getting the message.”
Next up? A companion legislation to strengthen the bill for “public safety and public health,” said Gov. Ralph Torres (R) in his signing statement.