| Pacific Daily News USA TODAY NETWORK
Based on the first two days of public testimony, one of the main issues to be considered by the Cannabis Control Board is whether to allow residents to own and operate more than one type of recreational cannabis business: growing, manufacturing or retail.
The issue of “vertical integration” — allowing businesses to hold several types of cannabis licenses — has dominated discussion during the board’s public hearings on the proposed rules and regulations for the new industry. The last day for public testimony is Saturday.
As currently written, the rules and regulations prohibit residents from owning or having a financial interest in more than one type of cannabis business.
Those who support vertical integration have testified it would help businesses by reducing their costs while allowing them to better control the quality of the product that is sold. Opponents have said it could create monopolies by companies with deep pockets and shut out small businesses that are trying to be part of the new industry.
Andrea Pellacani, who supports allowing residents to own and operate more than one type of cannabis business, told the board the rules and regulations prevent monopolies by limiting the size of the largest growing facilities. Pellacani is managing partner of Grassroots Guam, which advocated for the legalization of cannabis on Guam.
“Who controls the market are cultivators,” she told the board during Friday’s public hearing. The rules, as currently written, limit cultivators to a single license for a facility with a maximum growing canopy of 10,000 square feet. Limiting the canopy size is the most important factor to prevent monopolies and corporate takeovers of the island’s cannabis industry, Pellacani said.
Vertical integration opposition
Monique Amani, who is considering starting a cannabis edibles business, told the board she opposes the idea of vertical integration of cannabis business licenses. She said allowing people to hold more than one type of license will create a monopoly and hurt small cannabis businesses.
“It’s not fair at all,” she said.
She said if big corporations create a monopoly here, Guam’s cannabis money will be going off-island instead of helping Guam residents.
“All the big businesses are the ones running this island, and it’s shown more than ever during this pandemic,” Amani said.
Recreational cannabis has been legal on Guam since April 2019, and adults 21 years and older can legally consume it in private, possess it in public and grow it at home, with limits on the number of plants that can be grown at the same time. But selling it or trading it for anything of value remains illegal until the rules and regulations are in place and until the government’s seed-to-sale tracking system is operating.
Board members on Friday said there appears to be a growing misconception that the number of cannabis licenses will be capped. Board member Adrian Cruz said the board never intended to limit the number of licenses that can be issued. Chairwoman Vanessa Williams said the rules and regulations don’t limit the number of licenses.
Roland Quitugua, an extension agent at the University of Guam, told the board it should reconsider banning the use of synthetic fertilizers. The rules and regulations state cannabis can be grown using different methods, “but without the use of synthetic liquid or non-liquid fertilizers.”
Synthetic fertilizers are commonly used to grow food, Quitugua said, adding he is not aware of any safety concerns associated with their proper use.
“I don’t want to take another tool away from a grower,” he said.
Quitugua said the rules and regulations appear to allow cannabis growers to use raw animal manure, which he said is “really bad for the environment.” Board member Theresa Arriola thanked Quitugua for pointing that out and said the board will take another look at it.
Quitugua also said the rules and regulations mention “natural farming,” but do not define what that means. “I think it should be clarified,” he said.
He said California’s laws allow for more creative freedom, with a larger choice of colors and shapes, provided the packaging doesn’t have images that might be appealing to children.
Suzuki, who studies art at the University of Guam, said he worked for legal cannabis businesses in Hawaii and California.
“I found out you guys made it legal, so I jumped back home,” he said.
The Cannabis Control Board will hold a final public hearing on the rules and regulations starting 9 a.m. Saturday and ending at 5 p.m.
Residents can schedule an appointment to provide oral testimony by sending an email to [email protected] or by calling 635-1806. The board also is receiving written testimony sent to that email address.
The link to the Zoom conference is https://bit.ly/2I8w0lG. The meeting ID is 698 255 5129, and the meeting password is: CCBGUAM.