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Declaratory judgment filed over medicinal marijuana bill

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - It's been nearly two months since the Guam Election Commission voted to not place a measure seeking to legalize medicinal marijuana on this year's general election ballot. But a declaratory judgment filed today with the Supreme Court could very well change that.

Could Senator Tina Muna Barnes's medicinal marijuana measure see its way back on this year's general election ballot? That's all possible after the Guam Legislature filed a request for declaratory judgment with the Supreme Court today.

"I am very happy that this is being filed and on behalf of the legislature it has a been a concerted effort by all the members of the legislature who voted in support of resolution," she said.

Resolution 358 was passed unanimously by lawmakers last month asking for a declaratory judgment over the Guam Legislature's ability through a duly passed law of Guam to direct the Guam Election Commission to place a measure on this year's general election ballot. That measure is Bill 215 which would allow voters to decide whether medicinal marijuana should be legalized on Guam.

"It was opposed by one member it was lapsed into law we sent the documentation through the process with the Guam Election Commission and then there was a hurdle there and now we're here at this stage where we're asking the supreme court to please give us the decision that we are within our responsibility and our authority to do what we have done today," she said.

It was in March when the Guam Election Commission's legal counsel Jeff Cook determined action by the Guam Legislature as "inorganic" in which the commission voted to not place it on the ballot. Barnes says the declaratory judgment simply asks the court to determine whether the Legislature has the Organic Act power to submit a referendum and whether the GEC must comply with a duly adopted law to place the question on the ballot. Barnes says the matter is of great importance.

"Again, it is just for the use of medicinal marijuana and if that opportunity were to be given because we've allowed it as a legislative body to give it to the people to vote on election day then we should let them exercise that right," she said.

And unlike the Legislature's recent declaratory judgment over the Tax Refund Efficient Payment Trust Fund, Attorney Julian Aguon is handling the case as Barnes says "he is the best approach." "As you know, he had been working on this issue before, he had given a legal opinion on the Senator Muna Barnes behalf so it's important that we continue that continuity moving forward so the legislature has asked him to work on this declaratory judgment," she said.

No scheduling dates have been set just yet but Barnes is hopeful the court will grant her request saying it would give those who are suffering from debilitating health issues like cancer, multiple sclerosis or PTSD a chance to ease their pain or die with dignity. 
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