The Mariana Islands Just Became the First U.S. Commonwealth to Legalize Weed
Not only are the Mariana Islands the first U.S. commonwealth to legalize weed, they are the first U.S. jurisdiction to create a licensed adult-use market via an act of law, rather than a public vote.
Published on September 21, 2018

In a series of historic firsts, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) — a small chain of Pacific Islands with around 50,000 residents — officially legalized the sale and use of recreational cannabis. The CNMI will now go down in history as not only the first U.S. territory to legalize weed, but also the first U.S. jurisdiction to create a licensed adult-use market via an act of law. Before this week, every adult-use pot market in the U.S. was legalized via a public vote on a ballot measure. Vermont, however, legalized recreational cannabis use through legislative action, but sales of the drug remain illegal in the state.

CNMI lawmakers have proposed cannabis legalization bills almost every year since 2010, and support has gradually grown until this year, when legislators passed the bill with a strong majority vote. This week, Gov. Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres, who had previously expressed concerns over legal weed, signed the bill into law. Any adult over age 21 will be allowed to possess up to one ounce of weed, up to five grams of cannabis extracts, and 16 ounces of solid or 72 ounces of liquid cannabis-infused products. The territory is currently working on establishing a licensed and regulated market for retail sales, but adults will be able to grow their own plants if they sign on to a state registry.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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