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Voters will determine fate of medicinal marijuana

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - When voters head to the polls in November they will likely be able to vote on whether medicinal marijuana should be legalized in Guam, this after lawmakers passed - by majority vote - Bill 215 on Saturday.  Immediately following its passage Governor Eddie Calvo said that he would not stand in the way of the people of Guam deciding on the issue.

Healthcare Committee chair Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr was the only senator to vote no on the measure. "I firmly believe that on tough decisions like these, we have to make the decision on behalf of our people. Whether we support it or not," he said.

Rodriguez, who is also the committee chair on healthcare says he's listened to the professionals - from doctors to the employers council to the attorney general and even the director of Public Health which resulted in his "no" vote on Saturday session. "I believe it's just going to be a matter of time before medical marijuana is approved here on Guam, I just felt that this was not the time yet to do it," he said.

Bill 215  otherwise known as the "Joaquin Concepcion Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013" was named after local musician "Savage K" who died last year from cancer. After he was diagnosed he and his family relocated to the state of Washington where the use of medicinal and recreational marijuana are legal.

Guam Medical Society president Dr. John Ray Taitano says their position on the issue is the same as their parent organization the American Medical Association. "The Guam Medical Society and the AMA  recommends that the National Institutes of Health the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Food and Drug Administration conduct clinical research and change medical marijuana from a scheduled one substance to a different schedule to allow more clinical research and trials to determine whether there is medical benefits if you will to the use of marijuana most of the evidence right now is anecdotal so that means that it hasn't stood the test of clinical trials," he said.

Dr. Taitano believes more studies need to be conducted so that there is evidence based information to accurately determine whether medicinal marijuana  is beneficial to patients.

"My recommendation would be just to hold off as there's more and more interest with this issue regarding medicinal marijuana. Indeed time would be on our side to make sure we do things cautiously and proceed with optimism that we conduct these clinical trials to meet all these criteria to make sure it's evidence based information," he said.

Although Governor Eddie Calvo has not officially taken action on the legislation, in his statement Saturday it appeared he is inclined to allow the bill to become law and encourages the public to make an educated choice. For the time being the GMS is holding back its official position on the matter until such time clinical trials determine the validity of the use of medicinal marijuana. "If the evidence shows that it's beneficial medically then hey let's go for it anything that will help the patients," he said.

The Guam Medical Association declined comment on Bill 215 until they've had a chance to thoroughly review the legislation.

Bill 215 didn't provide a legislative appropriation for the referendum, according to Guam Election Commission executive director Maria Pangelinan to add it on to the ballot would cost about $35,000.

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