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Will medicinal marijuana be on the ballot?

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Will the matter of medicinal marijuana be placed before the voters in the November general election? It remains to be seen as oral arguments began today in the Supreme Court on the matter.

Just a few months remain until the general election and today oral arguments began in the Guam Legislature's request for a declaratory judgment with the Supreme Court. The matter is whether voters should be allowed to approve the Joaquin "KC" Concepcion II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013 that would allow the use of medicinal marijuana on Guam.

"This request for declaratory judgment centers upon the Guam Legislature's Organic Act power and duty to facilitate direct democracy on Guam more specifically to prescribe the conditions and procedures pursuant to which the people of Guam shall exercise its right of referendum," said Attorney Julian Aguon on behalf of the guam legislature. He argued that Guam laws are consistent with the authority and power given to the Legislature by Congress to prescribe these conditions. "It actually implicitly mandated the Legislature devise local laws to facilitate the exercise of the right," he said.

During today's proceedings, Aguon stated a legislative submission is just a legislative referendum under another name. He ultimately says the underlying voted issue was not to legalize medical marijuana but to submit the question to the electorate, noting, "Now in Public Law 32-134 it further facilitated what has already been sanctioned and blessed by Congress that is submitting questions to the electorate and facilitating the right of direct democracy of Guam."

That public law was originally Bill 215 introduced by Senators Tina Muna Barnes and Aline Yamashita to place the question of medicinal marijuana before the voters. The measure lapsed into law. The GEC however deemed action by the Guam Legislature as inorganic and voted to not place the measure on the ballot.

Attorney Jeff Cook on behalf of the GEC said, "We believe that the Legislature has the authority to do the legislative submission as it passed the law - unfortunately the problem here is it didn't follow the law."

In the GEC's argument, Cook states not only is the Legislature's interpretation of the Organic Act incorrect but that it abandoned its legislative responsibility without authority from Congress to do so. "They are giving up or delegating their authority to legislate the Congress gave the people the right to legislate through initiative or referendum it didn't give the Legislature the right to do that through referendum, it didn't give the Legislature the right to do that through referendum all it gave the legislature was the power to set the conditions and procedures," he said.

Today meanwhile marks nearly one year since the bill's namesake fondly known as Savage K or "KC" to many passed away after a two year long battle with stomach cancer. His family including his wife Emily Concepcion say it was comforting KC's fight continues, saying, "It's been a year, so it's been a long journey with his passing as well with the bill and then the referendum, but all we can do is sit back and wait for the judgment and pray everything goes our way."

And while the court takes the arguments, we should note that initiatives and referendums must be certified by the GEC 90 days prior to the General Election which happens to be August 6 or two days from today. 
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