US territories in the Pacific consider marijuana legislation

by | Mar 14, 2018 | Federal Government, Headlines | Comments

The sale of marijuana is legal in 29 US states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam- the latter two, only allowing for the medicinal use of marijuana. Although there are 9 states that have legalized recreational use of the substance under federal law, it has not been legalized. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with support from the Trump administration, overturned the Cole Memos that pushed for no interference from federal prosecution for marijuana violations in states with legal marijuana statutes. Democrats in the United States House of Representatives have introduced measures to protect states that have legalized the substance in an effort to counteract the repeal of the Obama-era protective memos.

The US territories with critical concerns regarding the Trump tax plan have initiated plans to take advantage of the current pushback against the Trump administration’s’ efforts to ‘re-criminalize’ marijuana use and distribution. Guam Governor Eddie Calvo (R) presented his 2018 Fiscal Realignment Plan on Monday, February 26, 2018 to Congress proposing to “legalize the sale and use of marijuana” on the island to, “[provide] a stable government and a stable community.” In fact, Calvo proposed similar legislation at the end of last year, but withdrew his bill because it lacked support from the Trump administration regarding recreational marijuana use.  

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands joined Guam on the path to ending marijuana prohibition this week. The commonwealth held hearings before the Senate Judiciary, Government and Law Committee on the legalization of marijuana and are waiting for a vote on the bill so that it may then be presented to the Senate. Along with the other territories, Puerto Rico has legalized medical use of marijuana, and there have been attempts to end prohibition on the archipelago. The former governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla (D, PDP) proposed legalization of marijuana and even introduced an executive order to end drug testing for public sector employees, according to a press release by the Associated Press. However, marijuana legalization has been stalled on account of the new Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s (D, NPP) lack of support for the bill.

If any of the US territories greenlight the legalization of marijuana for recreational use and distribution it could create ripple effects on the US mainland that counteract what some consider to be the “outdated” views of the Trump administration.