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Court filing seeks to prohibit marijuana referendum

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - In the November General Election, island residents will get to decide whether to allow medicinal marijuana on Guam. However, the latest court filing could change all that.

He's been very public about his opposition to the legislative-submitted referendum on medicinal marijuana and now local attorney Howard Trapp wants the federal court to step in.  "We want them to be restrained from putting it out to the voters, it's just that simple," he explained.

This morning Trapp filed a writ of prohibition in the District Court of Guam essentially asking the court to prohibit the referendum to be placed on the general election ballot. As he's noted several times before, Trapp says no bill shall become law unless its passed by the affirmative vote of majority of the members of the Guam Legislature.

"I advised the election commission, that it is inconsistent with the organic act and pointed out the section says 'no legislative bill shall become a law unless it's pass.' and they agreed with me," he said.

That bill Trapp refers to is Bill 215 otherwise known as the Joaquin "KC" Concepcion II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013. The measure, which lapsed into law, would allow the people of Guam to vote on whether medicinal marijuana should be allowed on island by placing the measure on the general election ballot. The GEC's legal counsel deemed action by the Legislature as "inorganic" and as a result the Commission decided not to place the matter on the ballot. The legislature in turn, filed a declaratory judgment with the Supreme Court who just last month ruled in favor of the Guam Legislature in putting the referendum on the ballot.

"That what I'm doing is necessary because the Supreme Court of Guam has decided otherwise? Absolutely 0810 because what the Supreme Court of Guam has to say about it, the District Court of Guam which is a federal court and this is a federal question because the Organic Act of Guam is a federal law, they don't even have to look at it," he said.

And while there's about a month left until the general election, Trapp doesn't believe it is too late to file the writ of prohibition. "I have always voted and the people of Guam want the Legislature, their representatives to look into things and make decisions - they don't want them to pass the buck to them which is exactly what they're doing here," he said.

The bill's main author Senator Tina Muna Barnes is off-island but co-author Aline Yamashita says she didn't see this coming. "I am disappointed, I appreciate democracy and I appreciate process but we already went to the court system and they already did issue their decision so I need to go back to see what's this is all about," she said.

Yamashita does note she would have preferred senators deciding on the issue in session instead. So will this affect the printing of the ballots that were already approved by the GEC? Maria Pangelinan, executive director of that agency, said, "It may and it may not, it depends, we'll just see where it takes us in the meantime, the Guam Election Commission must continue to do what it needs to do."

Pangelinan says all the ballots must be printed by October 6 when in-office absentee voting begins. Over 150 ballots have been sent to off-island and UOCAVA voters. We should note it was just last night when the GEC approved the objective analysis along with the arguments on the referendum that will be printed on the informational pamphlet mailed out to voters next month.  
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