Legalizing marijuana strongly considered - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Legalizing marijuana strongly considered

by Heather Hauswirth

Guam - The state of California is one state that has approved of tolerating medicinal cannabis use - but it appears that the Golden State is now inching towards full legalization for individuals who are at least 21 years old.  In fact, the initiative will be on a November ballot largely prompted in part by the state's budgetary deficit.

While some critics call marijuana a "gateway drug" that would merely exacerbate the drug culture, proponents argue decriminalization can save a state or territory, millions of dollars in public safety costs incurred when individuals are put in jail. Following the untimely death of Yona resident Vincent Peredo, partly attributed to stealing marijuana, one lawmaker is now considering introducing legislation similar to California's, saying the community must take a close look at the implications of decriminalizing the drug or tolerating medical users.

"Attorneys have gone on record saying in their thirty-some years of experience, they've never known anyone killed for marijuana, and there is probably some more to with that story," noted Senator Rory Respicio.  The recent news that the murder of a Yona man was linked to stealing marijuana sent many in the community into shock and prompted the Democrat policymaker to consider the merits of de-criminalizing the drug.

"I don't want that issue to crowd what we are attempting to do because there is probably value in moving forward and attempting to legalize marijuana," the senator added.  The added value the lawmaker is referring to includes looking beyond medicinal applications to the potential economic benefits that would stem from taxing and developing this industry as the state of California is considering.

He said, "It does have medicinal value, it's the same doctors and now economists saying beyond medicinal value, you can have an economic value to this."

Currently marijuana usage of any kind is illegal on island, but Dr. Chris Dombrowski is a family physician on Guam and a long time advocate for medical cannabis usage.  He told KUAM News, "I would use cannabis in the way a lot of physicians use the benzodiazepines, Xanax or Calium, I would say fifteen percent of my patients would do well on cannabis."  Dr. Dombrowski adds in this way it would serve as an anti anxiety agent, muscle relaxer and help with insomnia.

Senator Respicio says he knows it will spark debate.

Several island citizens responded to the question of whether he'd support the substance's legalization, with Flores Abina saying, "I would say no because it would cause more problems and more planting of marijuana."  Asako Megofna added, "It's not for medicine, they use it to make them crazy. I've seen kids taking marijuana, but they are worse, they don't have respect," and Damaris Simeon said, "If it's for medical reasons, then yeah it should be okay.

Senator Respicio says he is interested in the response of the community to the issue noting his staff is currently deciding how to peruse this - either as an initiative or a bill that would authorize implementation within 30 days.

Senator Respicio hasn't decided yet whether he will introduce the legalization of marijuana in the form of a bill or an initiative.

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