Former chief justice, doctor debate medical marijuana - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Former chief justice, doctor debate medical marijuana

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Should marijuana be legalized on Guam? It's a question that's not only been raised in the island community over the past few months but before the Rotary Club of Guam today.

It was exactly one week ago when Dr. Chris Dombrowski spoke before Rotarians on medical marijuana. Today they were once again treated to the subject this time in debate form with another medical professional and a former hand of the law. Former chief justice Peter Siguenza asked Rotarians to evaluate today's arguments and apply common sense and their own experiences, noting, "I urge you to do that and I think you will conclude that medical marijuana and marijuana for social use should be allowed."

As for Dr. Thomas Shieh, he says consider the dangers and consequences of marijuana abuse. "Now marijuana, should we legalize this for recreational use? I don't think so," he said.

Siguenza related the debate on marijuana on learning from past mistakes such as the prohibition of alcohol. He says its been more than 40 years since the war on drugs started with apparently no end in sight only until somebody makes the change. He adds marijuana is labeled as a scheduled one substance joining the ranks of LSD, heroin, peyote and mescaline ahead of some scheduled two substances such as PCP, morphine, methodone and opium.

He further criticizes how alcohol is not even on the schedules despite how addictive it may be, saying, "So ask yourself why is it that alcohol, nicotine and for that matter caffeine are not on scheduled controlled substances and yet marijuana is a Scheduled I substance," he stated.

Dr. Shieh agrees that marijuana should be taken off of Scheduled I and put on Scheduled II so that physicians can study the drug and manufacture it. He does however disagree that just because alcohol is legal so should marijuana. "Well, we already have one harmful chemical out in the public, you don't need another one and as doctors and nurses we see that everyday," he said.

And medically speaking, he further stressed how marijuana is a psychotropic drug meaning the affect goes straight to your brain. "It can impair short memory, impair attention, coordination and balance, you wouldn't smoke marijuana and drive a car let alone ride a bike or go on a race track and drive a hotrod, you're not going to do that," he said.

He adds marijuana can cause hallucinations, dependency, withdrawal and have carcinogens causing cancer. In the long term he says can even lead to addiction. He states the benefits to using marijuana recreationally are simply anictodal affects and are not scientifically based adding when you're in a court of law, it's about evidence not common sense as Siguenza had noted.

Siguenza continued to relate his argument to alcohol saying if alcohol can be legalized with restrictions, why can't marijuana not only for medical use but socially as well. "We are responsible adults we can handle alcohol those who have problems with it, we have measures to deal with that though we're 50 thousand deaths on average directly caused by alcohol each year, direct deaths from marijuana as far as the material that I have read, zero, none," he said.

Shieh meanwhile says while smoking marijuana may not directly kill a person, it does have an even dangerous affect when mixed with alcohol, something he says is a common practice in regards to recreational use. He further discussed the states of Washington and Colorado which recently approved the legalization of marijuana. Not everything is high on life there as he says problems have occurred with conflicts between state and federal law.

He said, "That's going to be a problem for us doctors 1702because we don't want to lose our license the DEA is going to come down on us for prescription violation, etc. they're going to catch us and put us in the jail, we don't want that period."

Rotarians further questioned both speakers such as whether marijuana is more dangerous on the human brain than alcohol to what are the economic consequences should marijuana be legalized. Siguenza says if controlled like alcohol and taxed, it could generate high revenues. Dr. Shieh however says if legalized, he could almost guarantee that marijuana stores could be opening up everywhere adding if its anything like alcohol and the level of impact it has on healthcare, he estimates an affect in the millions of dollars. 

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