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Resolution brings marijuana to the forefront

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - A resolution introduced by Senator Tina Muna Barnes is sure to light up some controversy. She's hoping by introducing Resolution 201 will spark discussion on legalizing marijuana on Guam.

"Some may like it, some may not," she said.

It's a subject matter that has sparked controversy before and will no doubt do so again, but Senator Barnes says she's not afraid to bring the talk of marijuana to the forefront. Resolution 201 specifically would call for the decriminalization of cannabis so that local law enforcement and corrections officers can focus more on resources on the increase in violent crimes and also to enhance individual, personal and political freedom and liberty.

"It just brings the opportunity for all the stakeholders in the community this is in no way to take away from the law enforcement but to make sure if that marijuana, cannabis is known to have that positive effect to be given to patients to help ease in that pain or make them heal for some great reason, then let us revisit that," she said.

The subject isn't new as you may recall Senator Rory Respicio introduced the Compassionate Healthcare Bill of 2010 that proposed to legalize marijuana for medical purposes only. That measure however never made it to session floor. So why a resolution and not a bill?

She said, "Because when you work with a resolution it gives the opportunity for anybody and everybody to come together and talk about it."

Just as we discovered out in the streets with island residents. Agnes Gatdula said, "Like if it was used for a medical issue maybe, but if it was legal just to take just to feel that it's not a drug, then I don't think it's a good thing." June Angoco from Yigo said, "I guess if it helps deal with the pain with some people who have medical issues."

Christian Mendiola from Barrigada noted, "Honestly, it helps the people, I've been doing it, I'm not going to lie, I never got sick once I started. It's a medicine, not a drug, come on guys, it's medicine not a drug."

Franklin Quichocho from Yigo said, "If the people of Guam are ready to make the discussion on this with the Guam Legislature and the Governor of Guam, as far as I'm concerned, it's okay with me."

Barnes meanwhile cites several studies and laws passed nationwide to de-criminalize marijuana. For example, the measure states that cannabis is safer than alcohol or cigarettes and that laws criminalizing marijuana have failed to control, reduce or eliminate usage. It further notes that 26 states have passed a variety of laws de-criminalizing marijuana and permit the use for medical purposes. Colorado and Washington had even pursued ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana allowing state governments to capture millions in revenue. Barnes ultimately says times have changed and new information continues to develop.

"For me a resolution is a start for an operational framework to move forward if this is what the community wants at large," she said.

Barnes in fact has draft legislation already prepared. She   says with recent arrests related to marijuana involving our man'amko to the cries of our veterans asking for medical relief, it would be wrong of her not to bring the conversation to the forefront.

"As a policy leader I'm here to listen and I believe in my heart that based on what's happening in our community and based on the suffering of a lot of our patients who go off island for cancer treatment. I've got to step up to the plate and look at it from this perspective and to know that Guam is not the only one talking about it," she said.

Guam Police Department spokesperson Officer A.J. Balajadia meanwhile tells KUAM that the chief of police plans on meeting with Senator Barnes to discuss the resolution. "It's illegal and it's against the law and there are crimes committed because of marijuana so until the law changes we will continue to enforce it," he said. 

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