GEC decides not to place marijuana measure on ballot - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GEC decides not to place marijuana measure on ballot

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - It seems Bill 215 has gone up in smoke, at least for now. This as the Guam Election Commission has decided to not place the medicinal marijuana measure on this year's general election ballot. But the bill's author isn't giving up.

In a week since three legal opinions were submitted by Senator Tina Muna Barnes' office in support of Bill 215, the Guam Election Commission returned Thursday night to decide on how to move forward with the bill which eventually lapsed into law. GEC legal counsel Jeff Cook said, "And I haven't changed my opinion as far as my belief that the organic doesn't grant the legislature the authority to basically pass their law making authority to the voters."

Cook's two opinions call action by the Guam Legislature inorganic, as he noted, "We're not talking about the issue we're talking about the process."

Cook has continued to recommend to the GEC to seek declaratory relief action from the courts on clarification of the law. During Thursday's meeting the commission did just that as commissioner Martha Ruth made the motion to first adopt both of Cook's opinions. The vote passed by a majority with democrat commissioners Joseph Mafnas and vice chair Alice Taijeron voting against with Dot Chargualaf absent. A second motion thereafter was passed unanimously for the GEC to inform the legislature of its action and suggest lawmakers seek the declaratory judgment.

Ruth said, "And suggest to them that they seek the relief from the courts which would get it out of our hands because we are not in the business like I said to going to bat for certainly the legislature and the governor which are the two most powerful organization on this island."

After the vote, independent member Pat Civille stressed that no one questions the power of the people to submit matters by way of referendum and that no one was trying to pick a fight with Senator Barnes. He says the issue came down to the legislature not having the authority to submit the measure as a regular referendum. "My first thought was very disappointing," he said.

Not only is she disappointed but Senator Tina Muna Barnes says she believes action by the GEC was politically motivated and wished they had better considered the three legal opinions she submitted. "I know the Guam Election Commission has the ministerial duty to follow the laws of the island there has been a procedure that's given the policy making body to take an issue to the people," she said.

While she doesn't agree with the GEC asking the legislature to seek a declaratory judgment, she's also not giving up on the issue. "Definitely not dead yet but again I leave it to the consensus of the community there are a lot of possibilities that this issue could take," she said.

One of those possibilities Barnes says is even bringing the issue back to lawmakers and have them vote to legalize medicinal marijuana instead. "That could be a consideration that can come back to the floor and that again I would have to talk to my colleagues to see what support can be garnered for deliberating the bill on its merit on session floor," she said.

Barnes remains adamant that Guam law allows for Bill 215 to move forward as it's done for other issues before the people dating back to the 1970's. 

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