Guam just took a potentially huge step toward fully legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Key lawmakers voted today on a new legalization bill. And after a very close vote, the bill came out on top. It will now move on to the governor’s office for final review and, advocates hope, to be signed into law.
Guam’s New Recreational Bill
Today, senators in Guam voted on Bill 32-35, also known as the Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019. If the bill passes into law, it will make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess and consume recreational cannabis.
Additionally, the bill also calls for Guam to legalize the production and retail sale of cannabis. And as with many other legalization bills, this piece of legislation would establish a framework in which Guam could regulate and tax marijuana sales.
Lawmakers have been working on the bill for some time. And recently, the bill underwent a series of amendments before going to the senate for today’s vote.
Ultimately, Bill 32-35 passed the senate by a narrow 8-7 margin. As a result, it will now pass to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero. Because the bill received some relatively recent changes, she will likely have to review the bill in its entirety before signing it.
Lawmakers who helped draft the bill and who for advocated for its passage hope Gov. Guerrero will make her decision soon. The bill is expected to be transmitted to her no later than the end of Thursday, after which she will review the bill and make her final decision.
The Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019 had six sponsors in the senate. And it needed a minimum of eight votes to pass in the senate.
Marijuana Laws in Guam
Bill 32-35 represents the latest step in Guam’s cannabis laws, many of which have evolved relatively quickly. For example, Guam voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana back in 2014.
However, Guam’s medical marijuana program is still not up and running. According to Pacific Daily News, the biggest obstacle is that there is still no marijuana testing laboratory in operation on the island.
Along with medical marijuana, Guam has seen significant changes to its recreational laws. Prior to Bill 32-35’s senate victory today, the island had already decriminalized marijuana.
“Let’s get one thing straight. Currently, it is legal to consume cannabis. It’s actually only a violation,” senator and leading sponsor of Bill 32-35 Clynt Ridgell told Pacific Daily News.
He added: “It’s technically not a crime. It’s been decriminalized already.” According to Ridgell, anyone caught with an ounce or less of cannabis is subject to a fine of up to $100. But once Bill 32-35 is passed into law, even that fine will go away.
As per Ridgell: “So it’s not considered a criminal act if you’re caught [with] under an ounce currently. So what we’ve done is we’ve actually removed that fine so now there won’t be a fine if you’re caught with anything under an ounce.”
At this point, it’s unclear exactly when legalization would go into effect. Similarly, it’s unclear how long it would take before any sort of retail program is up and running—especially in light of Guam’s ongoing struggles to launch its medical marijuana program.