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Sen. Respicio calls it health care

By Dionesis Tamondong HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News) - Senator Rory Respicio yesterday introduced a measure that would allow licensed physicians to prescribe marijuana to qualified patients.

Bill 420, titled "The Compassionate Health Care Act of 2010," also proposes to establish "compassionate health-care centers" that will grow, process, and dispense cannabis by prescription only.

"In no way would this bill legalize marijuana," Respicio said late yesterday afternoon.

The measure aims to help people who suffer from debilitating, chronic and painful illnesses and conditions.

"There is a large body of evidence that shows that the use of cannabis has brought relief and comfort to a number of suffering individuals," Respicio said in a letter to fellow lawmakers. "Several have approached me, including some veterans, who believe that cannabis could ease their pain and suffering."

The senator said he is working to gain support from the island’s medical community. The Pacific Daily News attempted to get reactions from local health officials, but were told they needed time to review the measure.

Respicio introduced Bill 420 at 4:20 p.m. yesterday. The number 420 is connected to cannabis culture and efforts to legalize its recreational use, according to various websites on marijuana. April 20 is commonly regarded as Weed Day nationwide.

But Respicio noted that he doesn’t support the recreational use of the drug marijuana to patients. Those patients would have to be registered with the local public health department and certified as having a debilitating medical condition.

The measure would permit the licensing of centers that manufacture cannabis and related supplies to registered patients and caregivers. The public health agency would be required to establish rules governing these centers.

Registered patients will be allowed to possess up to three ounces of marijuana, according to Bill 420.

Additionally, anyone caught in possession of less than one ounce won’t be in violation of the current law, which includes a fine of US$100, the bill states.

Respicio said his bill follows legislation of 27 states that decriminalizes cannabis or permits the use of medical marijuana.

"I strongly believe that this is a health-care issue that is too important to politicize," he said.

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