Despite GEC action, senators submit Bill 215 arguments - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Despite GEC action, senators submit Bill 215 arguments

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Despite the Guam Election Commission voting to not place the medicinal marijuana question on this year's general election ballot, it's apparently not stopping lawmakers from moving forward with the measure.

The Guam Election Commission is now in receipt of position statements from the Guam Legislature as to why voters should or should not vote to legalize medicinal marijuana on Guam. "We received the GEC opinion and we are of the opinion that this effort should still go forward, so we are acting as if it is still going forward," explained Senator Aline Yamashita.

It was earlier this month when the GEC voted to not place Bill 215 which lapsed into law on this year's general election ballot. Members deemed it inorganic. Despite the GEC's action, lawmakers are moving forward by submitting arguments as required of a legislative submission. Bill 215's main sponsors Senator Tina Muna Barnes and Senator Yamashita submitted a joint statement.

"The position statement states that our families on our island should have the choice of medicinal marijuana if their doctors says that would help them," said the latter, "and that would help them deal with their chronic pain or die with dignity here on our island rather than go off island to get the kind of help that they need."

She further cites how minor patients will be allowed to use medical cannabis but only under strict conditions and how funding will be provided to Public Health to start the program with continued funding from the fees generated by licenses issued under the act. Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. however disagrees, saying, "Number two is it really didn't, the law doesn't put into place strong regulatory procedures to ensure that if we do have medical marijuana as approved here on Guam that there are strict guidelines to be followed resources, $100,000 is required of Public Health to use that's very little, we know it's going to take more than $100,000 to effectively regulate this."

Rodriguez was the only senator who voted against Bill 215 and was tasked to write the argument against the measure. And while they're at odds over the issue, both senators do agree on one area. "So we have to ensure that we have the pros and cons," he added, "it's for us to hear both sides, to do more work on your own, do more research on your own, to talk with everybody and make your decision and so that's what the arguments are for."

Yamashita meanwhile says just as the GEC recommended, the committee will most likely bring the matter to the courts by seeking a declaratory judgment by way of a resolution, once the law's main author Muna Barnes returns from off-island. Could that win over Rodriguez?

"If it's something that is brought to the courts to decide if it organic or not, that's one thing but I don't believe in legislative submission and I believe that we as policy makers and decision makers that are put here by the people should make those tough decisions," he stated.

It remains to be seen whether the GEC takes any action on the submittals as GEC executive director Maria Pangelinan did not have any comment on the matter. The GEC does however meet Thursday but the medicinal marijuana measure is not on the agenda.

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