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Medicinal marijuana measured deemed inorganic

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - The measure that seeks to legalize medicinal marijuana on Guam has sparked controversy ever since it was first introduced last year and it doesn't appear to burn out anytime soon. This as the Guam Election Commission's legal counsel has deemed the measure inorganic.

Will voters get to decide on whether medicinal marijuana will be allowed on Guam in this year's general election? It remains to be seen as GEC commission legal counsel Jeff Cook has come out with his legal opinion not showing favorable reviews for Bill 215. Executive director Maria Pangelinan explains, saying, "It says that the legislative submission is inorganic and therefore the Guam Election commission cannot act on it at this time."

Issued earlier this week, cook calls action by the Guam Legislature inorganic and therefore it would be a violation of law for the GEC to proceed with the measure. the legal opinion further states there is no provision in the Organic Act for a legislative submission of a bill to voters except for the specific provision in putting a referendum to the voters to recall certain government officials. "The power of the Legislature is derived from the Organic Act and the Organic Act does not mention legislative submission, so that's the crux of the legal opinion and that's where we're at right now," she said.

When the bill was passed, the GEC raised concern on language in the measure over a referendum and a legislative submission as both actions have different requirements. It appears that may not even matter with the GEC's legal opinion. "It's in the codes but from my understanding the Organic Act, if it goes against the Organic Act, the Organic Act will prevail," she added.

The matter was briefly discussed Thursday at GEC's reconvened meeting but no action was taken on adopting the legal opinion. Pangelinan says shortly after the meeting, the GEC learned that Governor Eddie Calvo would let Bill 215 lapse into law. The bill lapsing in somewhat confusing as Senator Tina Muna Barnes' office had indicated to KUAM that the measure didn't require transmittal to the governor for signature as it was presumed to be a legislative submission.

Senators Tina Muna Barnes and Aline Yamashita were unavailable for comment but KUAM learned that the bill's two authors met on the matter today. A release this afternoon indicated that they look forward to this important matter being placed on the November 2014 general election ballot as per Guam law and encourage the public to exercise their right to vote. The release didn't reference the GEC legal opinion only that Speaker Judi Won Pat has appointed Barnes and Yamashita to draft the arguments favoring the measure with Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. to draft the arguments against. Rodriguez was the only senator who voted against Bill 215's passage. The submissions are due 45 days after the measure was adopted by the Legislature.

But will the arguments even be needed? Will the measure even be placed before voters based on legal counsel's opinion? Pangelinan says as of now, the GEC will not act on anything until the GEC officially meets later this month. "So what does that mean to us? We still have to wait, we will wait to decide what the commission says," she said.

We should note it was earlier this year when former senator and local attorney Howard Trapp brought the issue to light telling KUAM he believed the organic act prohibits the passage of such law. He adds possessing and delivering marijuana is inconsistent with the laws of the United States applicable to Guam. While Barnes had responded that it was a matter of interpretation, Trapp said it's not an opinion, it's the Organic Act and all you have to do is know how to read. He said if it was signed into law, it will be inconsistent and "a dead letter." 

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