Decriminalizing Cannabis on Guam, Part 1 - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Decriminalizing Cannabis on Guam, Part 1

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by John Davis for KUAM Columns

Guam - There has been much talk lately about the legalization of cannabis on Guam.  So much that several different ways to legalize and regulate the natural drug have been proffered.  Medical cannabis and outright legalization of cannabis seem to take the lead in discussions related to legalizing the drug, but are our people ready for it either way?  Before jumping to conclusions, let's take a look at some history about law, cultivation and consumption of Cannabis.

Cannabis has been used throughout America since 7,000 B.C.  That's over nine thousand years that Cannabis has been used by numerous civilizations.   The cannabis plant was used to make rope, clothes, medicine and of course, as alternative to tobacco.  In fact, cannabis has been illegal for less than one percent of the time it has been in use. What do local lawmakers think about the issue?  The main proponent of decriminalization of cannabis is Democrat senator Rory Respicio.  In an effort to get different views on the issue, I was able to interview the Chairperson on Rules via email.  Below are the questions asked and answers by Senator Respicio in detail, take a look.

JD:  Senator Respicio, if the issue of legalizing or regulating the use of cannabis were to ever be decided, would you chose bill form or referendum?  If it's bill form, do you think it will get enough votes to pass in the legislature and possibly overridden incase the governor veto's it? 

Senator Respicio: "First, let me make it clear that we cannot legalize marijuana, or cannabis, in Guam, we can only decriminalize it. In other words, we can remove local penalties, but the Federal penalties will still be in place."

"Cannabis is on the Federal list of Controlled Substances, alongside many medicines, drugs, and dangerous substances. Only the Federal Government can legalize marijuana."

"Medicinal cannabis is very different. Doctors can prescribe a number of substances on the Controlled Substances list, including Xanax, Morphine, Vicodin, Ritalin, Percocet, and so on. More than 20 Jurisdictions across the United States have taken the initiative to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis to patients with specific conditions. This is a sensible beginning for the process of decriminalizing this drug."

"If the Federal government did choose to legalize the use of cannabis (With restrictions similar to those on alcoholic beverages), I would be in support. There are economic studies that show that a legal cannabis industry could be as large and valuable as the adult beverage market."

"Lastly John, I will be introducing a bill. I have completed a draft bill that I intend to circulate among doctors, my colleagues and other interested parties for input. I think that there is enough sentiment in the community, especially among suffering veterans, to at least allow for medicinal cannabis in Guam."

Just thinking about Bills becoming Law makes me think as far back as the 1600's.  States implemented laws that ordered farmers to grow Indian Hempseed, also known as Cannabis Indica.

If you put the propaganda explaining just how bad cannabis is to the side, you'll learn that cannabis use was criminalized in the United States for several reasons, but the one that sticks out in my mind is how the U.S. Government used criminalization of cannabis as a tool to keep Mexicans outside U.S. borders. 

In the 1900's Americans living in the western region of the united sates weren't too happy with an influx of Mexican-Americans as a result of the Mexican Revolution.  Mexican-Americans were cheap labor used for large American farms.  However; it was the small time farmers that harvested bad feelings towards these immigrants.  So how did Uncle Sam deal with this problem? Well, most Mexicans smoked cannabis during that time and even brought the plant with them when they migrated into the U.S.  so the state of California stepped up to the plate passing law that criminalized the preparations of hemp or loco weed.

Today, I bet the California government is not too happy with prohibiting cannabis cultivation, oh I meant preparation.  In fact, the same state is leaving the option of decriminalizing cannabis to voters.  In November, California residents will vote to approve legalization of cannabis.  If passed and implemented, residents would be allowed to "cultivate" cannabis in a five foot by five-foot space in their homes or yards.  Cannabis consumption will not be accepted in public and no one will be allowed to carry more than an ounce on his or her person.

JD: If cultivation of marijuana in a 5'x5' space is legalized like it is already being considered in California, how will it be regulated on Guam?  We always hear the bureau of Budget Management and Research saying Guam needs to find ways to increase its tax base, well this is one measure that will definitely increase the tax base, but will taxation be per pound or ounce or gram?  What are your thoughts?

 

Senator Respicio: "Once again, legalization is probably a long way off, and the nuts and bolts of an industry that can't exist is pure speculation. There are many good arguments for a cannabis industry, but it may take a while to get the Federal government to agree."

"I have a section in my draft bill that would remove all penalties on possession of one ounce or less of cannabis. This would not be contrary to the new Federal policy, and I think this may also get public support. Penalties will still exist on possession of over an ounce."

Aside from the first cannabis law "ordering" all farmers to grow in the early 1600's, there were other laws enacted over the next 200 years.  There were even laws stating you could be sent to jail for not growing hemp during times of shortage in the state of Virginia between 1763 and 1767.  Topping it all off, you could even pay your taxes with hemp!  Imagine that!

Over all these years, one thing hasn't changed.  The cultivation and use of Marijuana or Cannabis is still illegal unless prescribed by a physician in a state that has decriminalized medical marijuana.  Even at that, the Federal Government still has the authority to drop down from the sky via helicopters, raid farms and close down pharmacies, that's just the plain truth.  Despite statements made by the President of the United States, Barack Obama, that all cannabis issues should be dealt with at the state level and not the federal level, there has been no change or hint of changing laws related to cannabis regulation and cultivation.  I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.

Next week, we'll focus on the medical point of view in regards to cannabis use with another proponent for the legalization of cannabis for medical use, Dr, Chris Dombrowski.

The views and opinions expressed in KUAM Columns are not necessarily those of Pacific Telestations, Inc. or its advertisers

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