Guam Plans Implementation Of Medical Marijuana Policy

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Federal government defers to states, won’t pursue legal action

By Jerick Sablan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 29, 2015) – As the island waits for the implementation of medical marijuana the federal government has signaled it won’t pursue legal action where there are local laws in place.

The U.S. Congress passed a federal spending bill which included a provision that prohibits the Department of Justice from taking legal action against states and territories where medical marijuana is legal.

Sec. 542 of the federal spending bill prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to prevent states and territories with medical marijuana laws from implementing them.

The section was included through Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, and Sam Farr, D-California, whose state saw several raids at legal medical marijuana facilities this year.

This is the second time Congress has included a provision in the spending bill to prohibit the Justice Department from pursuing states and territories with legal marijuana, the senators stated in a release.

"The majority of the states have said they want medical marijuana patients to have access to the medicine they need without fear of prosecution," said Rep. Farr in a release. "For the second year in a row, the people’s house has listened to the will of the people and voted to give them that access."

The rules and regulations to implement medical marijuana on island are still under review by the Office of the Attorney General, the office’s spokeswoman Carlina Charfauros said. Guam voters in 2014 approved the legalization of marijuana on Guam for medical purposes.

The office is reviewing the rules and regulations in tandem with the Controlled Substance Act, she said. A task force, led by the Department of Public Health and Social Services, created the rules and regulations, drawing upon those used in the state of Arizona.

The office in a previous release stated the review would be completed by the end of the year, however, Charfarous couldn’t confirm if it was still the case.

The office has had the rules and regulations since October.

"A lot of hard work has gone into the development of the draft rules and regulations thus far, and we appreciate the (Public Health) department's efforts," the release from the AG's office states.

Public Health revised the draft following a three-day series of public hearings held in late August.

Officials from public health have stated that every comment made at the public hearings was considered for possible inclusion or amendment to the proposed rules and regulations.

Sen. Tina Muna Barnes, D-Mangilao, and author of the local law that helped make medical marijuana legal on Guam, said the provision means thousands of patients won’t have to worry about being made criminals because they use medicinal marijuana.

"At its heart, every medicinal marijuana movement recognizes that this is about caring for patients not winning at politics," she said.

She said she hopes the AG will complete her review of the rules and regulations by the year’s end.

"The electorate told us to get this done, and until it is, someone on Guam is suffering and doesn't need to be," Muna Barnes said.

Once the AG is done with the review, the health department will make any additional amendments, based on the AG's comments.

The draft will then be sent to the governor's office for approval, and then to the Legislature.

Within 90 days of receiving the document, the legislative body must either pass or disapprove it. A public hearing must be held within the 90 days.

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