GEC reviewing mandates before medicinal marijuana goes on ballot - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GEC reviewing mandates before medicinal marijuana goes on ballot

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Should medicinal marijuana be allowed on Guam? It's a question that's been asked over the past few months and is expected to last well into this year's general election. But there's still many steps that need to be taken before voters can actually see the question on the ballot.

Guam Election Commission executive director Maria Pangelinan is anxiously waiting to review Bill 215 passed over the weekend by lawmakers. "The timeline is ticking now from the date of passage which was Saturday, they have within 45 days to submit arguments for and against," she said.

The measure would put the question out to voters this November on whether to legalize medicinal marijuana on Guam. Unlike an initiative or a referendum put forth by the voters in election's past, Pangelinan says a legislative submission, the first in the GEC's history, is much different. "This one is initiated by the Legislature and so what happens arguments for and against are written by senators, so the speaker appoints somebody on the pro-side and she also appoints somebody on the con-side, anybody who voted against it," she said.

All senators voted in favor of the bill except for Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. The Committee on Health chair said while he believes it's a matter of time before medical marijuana is approved on Guam, he felt now was not the time and that senators should be the one to decide on such a controversial and tough decision. He further notes that his vote was as a result of listening to doctors, the Employers Council, the attorney general and Public Health.

This legislative submission meanwhile won't require petitions nor will it require public village meetings, but it will require funding, something the GEC estimates to cost around an extra $35,000, an amount the GEC currently does not have. Senator Tina Muna Barnes's office tells KUAM that an appropriations bill should be forthcoming. Aside from funding, Pangelinan doesn't expect any major challenges.

"I think one of the things we have going for us, in the past, it was right before the general election, now we have additional time to getting it appropriately on the ballot," she said.

According to Senator Tina Muna Barnes office, Bill 215 actually does not need to be signed by the governor because it is a legislative submission. Following its passage however, Governor Eddie Calvo said he would not stand in the way of the people's right to decide on the issue. Meanwhile Pangelinan says if the arguments are not submitted within 45 days from the bill's adoption, the measure won't be on the ballot. 

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