Guam became the first U.S. jurisdiction to legalize marijuana in 2019 with the signature of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero (D) on Thursday.
When it goes into effect, the U.S. territory’s new law will permit adults 21 and older to possess and grow cannabis, and it will create a system of licensed and regulated businesses to produce and sell marijuana.
There will be a 15 percent excise tax on sales, with revenues going toward law enforcement, drug treatment and agriculture programs.
Lawmakers in Guam’s unicameral legislature sent the legislation to Guerrero last week in a narrow vote of 8 to 7.
“I have to answer this one question: Given all the info, studies done, experiences shared, advice [and] anecdotes about marijuana, what would a responsible community government leader do to protect the interests and welfare of the community?” Guerrero said in a press conference announcing her decision on the bill.
“Keeping it illegal in my mind rejects the notion 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.”
Watch video of Guerrero announcing her decision on the marijuana bill below:
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, another U.S. territory, legalized marijuana last year, and the U.S. Virgin Islands enacted a medical cannabis law in January.
Guam was the first U.S. territory to allow medical marijuana via a voter-approved ballot measure in 2014, but its implementation moved forward slowly.
Photo courtesy of Carlos Gracia.