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Bill proposes allowing pot for medical conditions

By Jennifer Naylor Gesick HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety, July 23, 2010) – Guam doctors testified against Bill 423, a proposal to legalize medical marijuana on Guam and authorize physicians to prescribe it to patients.

The bill had a second public hearing last night. Only one showed up to testify on the bill when it was first publicly heard last week.

Dr. Chen Huang, an oncologist, submitted written testimony, warning about a possible abuse of medical marijuana if the bill is enacted into law.

"Loopholes and abuse of the system is almost certainly bound to occur and it is important to nip it in the bud," wrote Huang.

Huang is also not pleased that any "failed" oncologist could make more money by prescribing medical marijuana than the doctor who passed the board exams.

However, he admitted that he has a "handful of patients who used marijuana and do tell me that it does work to give them appetite."

However, Huang said, medical marijuana is not a reliable cure for cancer-related anorexia as claimed by researchers.

Dr. Joel Rubio and Dr. Annette M. David of Health Partner also opposed the bill stating that the risks far outweigh the benefits for Guam.

They said they reviewed evidence and experience in other states and countries who have tackled this issue.

They summarized their research by stating that, "While marijuana may demonstrate some efficacy, particularly with HIV and cancer-related anorexia and chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, it is not better than current standard therapies."

They also argued that long term safety of marijuana, especially smoked marijuana is not established.

Rubio and David pointed out that there are two synthetic oral cannabinoids (the active ingredient in marijuana) available in the United States and approved by the Food and Drug Administration for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting as well as for weight loss with AIDS patients.

One doctor wrote in support of the measure, and since he was not able to be present Sen. Telo Taitague read his testimony.

Dr. Jason Biggs said, "Marijuana has great untapped potential as a therapeutic agent for many mental disorders, glaucoma, loss of appetite, and other disorders such as pain and nausea."

Biggs, who has a PhD in pharmacology and toxicology and works with the University of Guam Marine Laboratory as well as the Cancer Research Center, said his statements were based on his professional opinion.

He added that the biochemical action with marijuana is understood much better than that of alcohol. "It would be a good thing to have marijuana on the list of available drugs for doctors to prescribe," he wrote.

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