With no legitimate cannabis establishment close to opening its doors on Guam, it may be time to sidestep the need for a cannabis testing laboratory, Sen. Will Parkinson said.
Guam’s lack of a cannabis testing lab seems to be the main thing keeping potential cannabis industry investors from making a move, according to various officials involved in the regulation of cannabis, during an informational meeting called by Parkinson Monday.
Rules and regulations for the cannabis industry require that any product grown on Guam has to be tested for potency and safety at a certified testing facility before going to market.
So far there are 14 “responsible officials” who have been approved by the Cannabis Control Board, but most are hesitant to move to the next step of getting a cannabis establishment license until they see a lab move forward, said Craig Camacho, a regulatory supervisor for the Department of Revenue and Taxation.
One group is moving to get a license, but is facing a holdup with clearances from the Guam Waterworks Authority.
Parkinson, who formerly sat on the Cannabis Control Board, said he believes that the opposite is also true: No lab will open until there are cultivators and shops who they can service.
“Nobody wants to go first because nobody wants to be the first one on the dance floor,” he said.
With the legitimate industry stuck in limbo over the lab issue, the government of Guam was perpetuating the underground market instead of getting rid of it, Parkinson said. Besides being a potential health risk, it was also losing GovGuam potentially significant revenue.
Even if a single lab opened, it was unclear whether it would have the capacity to serve the entire local industry, he added.
The senator said it may be time to consider some sort of workaround for the lab issue, either allowing business to sell untested cannabis so long as no lab existed, or putting in place a temporary waiver of sorts.
No official present raised any objections.
Lawrence Alcairo, program coordinator for the Department of Public Health and Social Services’ medical cannabis program, said other states had provided either a moratorium or abatement on lab testing. Whatever was decided, Public Health would safely and responsibly implement the law, he said.
Public Health officials said a disclaimer could be printed on any products to note that it was untested.
Adult recreational cannabis use was legalized in 2019, but the rules and regulations governing a legitimate cannabis industry weren’t finalized until late last year, leaving the industry in limbo.
Rev and Tax started accepting applicants for “responsible officials” last August, but no business has moved past that first step towards opening a shop, grow operation, or manufacturing center.
Cannabis shop congestion
Beyond the issue of the lab, businesses may face another hurdle in real estate, according to Rev and Tax’s Camacho.
At least eight responsible officials have applied to open retail shops, he said.
“We’ve been working with them and then shopping around, they’re overlapping each other. They’re gonna be kind of fighting for a prime retail space with the zoning requirements and the drug free zone.”
Interested cannabis investors are also having issues getting cleared by the Department of Land Management, said Rev and Tax Deputy Director Marie Lizama.
Cannabis rules require that a potential business has to present either a lease or title to the land where they want to open up operations, she said—before they can even get a permit.
“He or she does not want to be locked into a contract or lease agreement just because of the fact that he is not sure…that they are going to be approved,” Lizama said.
Celine Cruz, chief planner for the Department of Land Management, said her agency has been working to help applicants determine if a potential location would comply with cannabis regulations, but needed to see a lease either way.
“It doesn’t say you have to have a certain term on your lease, we just need to see a lease,” she noted.
Lizama said she would be revisiting the issue with the Cannabis Control Board, to determine whether a modified lease agreement or a letter of intent to lease could be accepted.
The PDN reported last month that Pacific Analytical Services, so far the only potential lab going through the regulatory process with GovGuam, is facing issues with getting clearance from DLM due to the lease issue.
Lizama said there may have been some progress made by banking institutions that want to accept money generated from the cannabis. She declined to say what progress exactly, as she did not want to speak for any bank.
With cannabis still illegal federally, banks insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have been hesitant to take cannabis cash, causing issues for the local government, the PDN reported.
“We certainly need to go back and, and check with the institutions,” Lizama said.
According to Camacho, the banking problem wasn’t deterring cannabis business applicants, who could pay by cash or check to get their application processed.
With no legitimate cannabis establishment close to opening its doors on Guam, it may be time to sidestep the need for a cannabis testing laboratory, Sen. Will Parkinson said. Read More