While many people would have guessed that New York or New Jersey would have been the first US jurisdiction to legalize recreational cannabis in 2019, that award is going elsewhere. On Thursday, Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero (D) signed a bill allowing adults 21 or older to legally consume and possess cannabis. Guerrero said that passing the legislation allows the Pacific island territory to start confronting its illicit drug trade in a meaningful way.
"Keeping it illegal in my mind rejects the motion that it exists and that the underground market will continue to prey on us. We have to be ahead of this and we have to control it," Guerrero said during a press conference on Thursday.
The new law also allows adults 21 or older to grow up to six plants for personal use. However, a retail market for cannabis will not be established right away. Lawmakers have a one-year deadline to create regulations for the retail sales of marijuana products on Guam.
While medical marijuana has been legal in Guam since 2014, the territory's lack of a cannabis testing facility has meant the medication is still largely inaccessible for many patients. Guam Senator Clynton Ridgell (D), who was the legalization bill's chief sponsor, said that retail sales cannot begin on the island until a proper testing facility has been established.
Guam is now the second US territory to legalize recreational cannabis following the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands' move to do so last August. Meanwhile, 10 US states and Washington, DC have also legalized recreational marijuana, and while Guam's decision won't likely be the tipping point to end cannabis prohibition in America, the territory certainly has given people more incentives to visit Oceania in the near future.
h/t: Pacific Daily News