GEC fails to adopt opinion on medicinal marijuana due to tied vo - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GEC fails to adopt opinion on medicinal marijuana due to tied vote

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - It's been two weeks since the Guam Election Commission's legal counsel, Jeff Cook, issued a legal opinion on Bill 215 calling action by the Guam Legislature inorganic. And just hours before its Thursday regular meeting, the GEC received two legal opinions from the bill's author Senator Tina Muna Barnes - one from her committee's legal counsel Julian Aguon and a second from the legislative minority's legal counsel James Espaldon. Both the opinions submitted by Senator Barnes disagree with Cook's opinion. Aguon states it is his opinion there is sufficient cause to believe that nothing in the organic act bars the Legislature from submitting questions to the people via a legislative submission and therefore Bill 215 constitutes a proper exercise by the legislature of its lawmaking authority. Espaldon believes that the legislative submission for referendum is not in derogation of the Organic Act.  Senator Barnes' office tells KUAM the legislative majority's legal counsel Therese Terlaje did submit a legal opinion to the bill's author as requested, however the GEC was not in receipt of the opinion today.

Cook's legal opinion advises that if the Legislature disagrees with counsel and continues to direct GEC to proceed under Bill 215, counsel recommends GEC seek declaratory relief from the Superior Court of Guam on whether Bill 215 violates the Organic Act.

Today, Cook suggested having the Legislature bring the matter to the court to decide whether in fact it does have the authority to move forward with Bill 215. He told commissioners it is not a wise move to sit back and do nothing as he believes there's something wrong with the law and its best to ask the court for some direction.

Commissioner Martha Ruth made a motion to adopt the GEC legal counsel's opinion and to have the Legislature resolve the issue through a declaratory judgment in the court or obtaining the necessary amount of signatures in order to put in the ballot as a referendum. The voted ended in a tie and was not adopted. The three Republican members Ruth, John Taitano and chairman Joe Mesa voted in favor. Democrat members Joseph Mafnas and vice chairwoman Alice Taijeron along with independent member Pat Civille voted against. Democrat member Dot Chargualaf was absent.

Because the opposing legal opinions were submitted just a few hours before the GEC meeting, Cook was given one week to review them. He did however state that he doesn't see anything before him that would make him change his position.

The GEC tabled the matter and will discuss again when it reconvenes Thursday March 6 at 5:32pm.

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