Medical professionals oppose marijuana bill - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Medical professionals oppose marijuana bill

by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - It was last Friday when Senator Tina Muna Barnes introduced legislation that would allow for the legalization of medicinal marijuana on Guam. But the measure has since drawn opposition from the island's leading medical professionals.

Over 500 comments were submitted in support of Resolution 201 over the past two months and eventually led to the introduction of Bill 215 last week. However one group has since come out opposing the measure. "The Guam Medical Association appreciates the intent of the bill and we appreciate that it is to benefit and help patients however we have yet to come up with a support of the bill and would like to have a bigger conversation before the bill comes to fruition," stated spokesperson Dr. Erika Alford. She explained that Bill 215 no doubt will start the conversation however the concern stems from the fact that GMA's opinion was not obtained on this matter.

"The big part is we don't want patients to think that medical marijuana will be the cure-all or a good treatment for all their conditions," she said.

According to a release over the weekend, GMA states, "The diagnosis and treatment of diseases should be left to trained medical professionals and not be legislated especially when we are requiring physician's prescribing authority." Alford says for instance, glaucoma, one of the debilitating medical conditions listed in the measure, may not necessarily provide better treatment than what is offered in the market already.

"Studies are showing that smoking two marijuana Cigarettes a month do not increase the risk of lung cancer but if you're smoking on a daily basis as treatment, yes it may."

But it's not just the health concerns that has GMA concerned, it's several other gaps Alford says the bill does not address another of which includes regulation and control. "If you have multiple medical problems for which you feel you need marijuana, you're probably on multiple medications already. Do we know what the interactions are? The other issue is if there's no control on how it's manufactured and processed, we can't say for sure if it's safe," the physician explained.

Bill 215 does establish an advisory board aimed at coming up with the rules and regulations, but Alford says again that's of concern as well considering the island only has one neurologists along with only two infectious disease specialists.

 "So our specialists are very limited and they're very stretched thin, so I think that will have to be seen if whether an advisory board such as this can be put together. It would be difficult," she said.

Alford says because marijuana is a controlled one substance, it makes it even more difficult for the medical professionals to do more research. She does however acknowledge that there are several holes in our medical system and we need to do more to help our community especially with our limited resources. She adds there are alternatives to medicinal marijuana such as Marinal - a drug that helps treats or prevents nausea and vomiting caused by cancer medicines.

Senator Barnes meanwhile says she has wanted feedback from the medical community including GMA since the beginning but didn't even receive any testimony from them for Resolution 201. Barnes says she even attended a Rotary debate on the topic where GMA president Dr. Thomas Shieh spoke against legalizing marijuana on Guam. "I don't want to fight with the Medical Association or the Medical Society," the senator said.

Nonetheless Barnes says she invites any kind of feedback on the measure and hopes to have a public hearing soon, adding, "And this is the step that we're taking to move forward, so if GMA wants to share their concern or their support for medicinal uses of marijuana then I invite all of that."

Alford meanwhile says the GMA board is meeting this week to come up with a final stance on Bill 215 which may even include some of its ideas they may want to include in the bill. 

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