In April 2019, Guam became the first United States jurisdiction to legalize recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana had been legalized there in 2014. Now, any adult (21 and older) can legally purchase and consume cannabis in this U.S. territory. But what does this mean for Guam and its economy? Was legalization a good thing, or will it only make things worse? Guam has made a big move within the cannabis community, and now it’s time to find out what moves the rest of the U.S. will make in terms of legalization.
First, Here’s A Backstory
Marijuana use in Guam dates back to the 1960’s, when American soldiers during the Vietnam War popularized it there. When the war ended in 1975, the usage of cannabis in Guam did not. For the three decades to follow, all consumption of cannabis would be illegal; however, it would be popular.
An assessment from the National Drug Intelligence Center on marijuana use in Guam was released in August 2003, and it stated the following facts:
In the early 1990’s, the price of marijuana in Guam began to rapidly increase due to the local law enforcement cracking down on its use, and the prices have remained that way. In 1991, the price for a single pound of marijuana went from $2,500 all the way up to between $5,000-$8,000. By 2002, the price of one pound was $12,800. Additionally, one ounce of marijuana cost $800.
The assessment also stated that, despite the efforts done by local law enforcement, marijuana had more availability in Guam than it had in Japan. Although marijuana was readily available, the number of marijuana-related federal sentences in Guam remained very low from 1997-2001.
Marijuana is grown and cultivated both indoors and outdoors in Guam. However, due to Guam’s poor soil, marijuana grown on the island has lower levels of THC compared to other areas that source it. Because of this, marijuana is frequently smuggled into Guam from the Republic of Palau, as well as Hawaii and the Federal States of Micronesia (but to a lesser extent).
Leading To Legalization
As a result of the use of marijuana in Guam and the growing illegal market that was distributing it, votes to pass the legalization of marijuana began to arise. In 2010, the first bill to legalize medical marijuana was proposed (named Bill 420). However, only one person showed up to the bill’s public hearing. That person was against the bill, therefore making it unsuccessful.
A second bill to legalize medical marijuana was proposed in 2014. This time, the bill passed with 56% voting in its favor. The use of medical marijuana was now legal in Guam. Unfortunately, Guam’s medical marijuana program was off to a very slow start. In fact, it still has not officially launched, therefore making medical marijuana almost impossible to get. One reason is the fact that there is no marijuana testing going on in Guam.
In 2017, a bill was proposed from legislation to allow medical marijuana license holders to grow marijuana in Guam. The governor vetoed this vote. That same year, another bill was proposed. This bill was called the Marijuana Control Law, and its aim was to legalize recreational marijuana. It was not until two years later that the idea of recreational weed becoming legal was put into action.
By March 2019, the Legislature of Guam passed a bill (by a vote of 8-7) to legalize recreational marijuana. On April 4th 2019, the Governor of Guam signed this bill. Medical and recreational marijuana was now legal in Guam.
How The Local Government Will Handle Legalization
The Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019 legalized cannabis in Guam. It allows adults (21 and older) to possess and grow marijuana. It also allows for the retail sale of marijuana. Currently, the local government is working on a way to regulate and enforce the sale of marijuana. There will be a 15% sales tax on all marijuana sales. Profits are said to go towards law enforcement, agriculture programs, and drug treatments.
The Governor of Guam stated that regulating the cannabis market is the best way to compete with a growing illegal market. She also acknowledged some medical benefits of cannabis, such as treatment for cancer patients and those who suffer from PTSD.
Regulations of cannabis in Guam are similar to alcohol and tobacco. Use is prohibited in schools and workplaces. In addition, cannabis can only be purchased in places that have been approved to sell cannabis. The bill also works towards creating and operating a cannabis testing lab to approve products before selling.
As more U.S. states and territories legalize cannabis, legalization throughout the entire nation becomes more apparent. Let’s see what the coming years hold for cannabis use. Thanks for reading!