Guam Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis
mapo/Adobe Stock

Guam Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis

After becoming the second U.S. territory to legalize cannabis, Guam will develop retail regulations later this year.

April 8, 2019

Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed an adult-use cannabis bill into law on April 4 after months of debate over how to curb what she called an “underground market.”

The law will allow adults to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and to grow six plants for personal use. Regulations for retail sales will be written and debated later this year. A nine-member Cannabis Control Board will develop those rules and oversee the program.

“We must regulate this illicit drug that is the most widely used drug in our society,” Guerrero said during a press conference. “We have to take it and control it, monitor its use and effects, benefit from its medicinal efforts, allow our people to live in a safer environment.”

Part of that safer environment will include the eventual regulated marketplace. Guam legalized medical cannabis use in 2014, but the territory has not yet licensed a testing lab; the medical cannabis market remains dormant. With home cultivation approved in 2018 and this fully realized cannabis reform legislation signed by Guerrero, the island is moving toward sales and business development.

The small Pacific island (population: 164,000) is the second U.S. territory to legalize cannabis, following the nearby Northern Mariana Islands’ legislation last year.

At least one point of opposition against this law was rooted in a “rule of law” argument, which Ron McNinch, a political science professor at the University of Guam, said reflects the Schedule-I status of cannabis in the U.S. While the island territory is somewhat self-governed, its federal oversight lies in the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Federal legislation like the newly reintroduced STATES Act does include specific mention of U.S. territories; the STATES Act would bar federal enforcement of cannabis’s Schedule-I status in states, territories and tribal laws that have approved the sale and use of the plant.