Guam Medical Marijuana Vote Proceeds Despite Court Challenge

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Election Commission prepares for ballot measure in November

By Jerick Sablan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Sept. 30, 2014) – The Guam Election Commission is proceeding as planned with the medical marijuana vote, despite a challenge in federal court.

Local attorney Howard Trapp filed a petition for writ of prohibition last Friday with the District Court of Guam to stop the vote on medical marijuana, scheduled for this November.

He has challenged the ability of lawmakers to put the question before voters as a "legislative submission," which is an untested local election law.

GEC Executive Director Maria Pangelinan said until a court order or the commission's legal counsel tells them not to proceed, the commission will continue to move forward.

Last week, the commission voted to place the Legislature's arguments for and against the measure on pamphlets that are expected to go out to voters within the next few weeks.

The District Court of Guam issued an order requiring the GEC to respond to Trapp's filing by Oct. 7.

According to Trapp, the Guam Legislature can't legally "pass the buck" to voters when it comes to passing legislation.

The question of whether to approve legislation to legalize medical marijuana on Guam is being presented to voters through "legislative submission," which is different from a voter initiative.

The Guam Election Commission raised the same concerns about the legislative submission process -- initially refusing to prepare the marijuana question for the ballot -- but the island's Supreme Court on Aug. 5 decided the process was valid.

Proponents of the medical marijuana vote yesterday voiced their disappointment about the extra hurdle the vote may have to face.

Sen. Tina Muña Barnes, D-Mangilao, who wrote the Joaquin "KC" Concepcion II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013 to allow voters to approve medical marijuana in the General Election, said she's very disappointed.

Barnes said the Supreme Court, made up of three local justices, already decided that the Legislature has the power to proceed with legislative submission.

"To see a monkey wrench get thrown in there is very disappointing," she said.

Sen. Aline Yamashita, R-Tamuning, who co-sponsored the legislation, said she was concerned about the timing of the filing. She was assured by GEC that it would proceed until told otherwise.

"It's another bump and, like other bumps, we'll get through it," Yamashita said.

J.C. Concepcion and Emily Concepcion, the father and wife, respectively, of the late K.C. Concepcion, both expressed their disappointment as well.

Despite the possible hurdle, the group plans on pushing for support for the measure, Emily Concepcion said.

The group Live Life Alive is planning a wave in front of the Micronesia Mall at 4:30 p.m. Friday to gain support for the measure, she said.

"I'm really positive and we're still gonna keep moving forward," she said.

J.C. Concepcion said although he's disappointed, he did anticipate the latest legal challenge.

He said it's unfortunate that there's another hurdle, especially since the Supreme Court made its decision.

"We want our community to go out there and decide on this landmark issue," he said.

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