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Public Health makes progress with medicinal marijuana

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Less than two months after the medicinal marijuana measure was officially enacted, a ten-member advisory board is finally empanelled and set to hold its first meeting next week. Public Health director James Gillan told KUAM News, "It really is just to put faces to names and talk a little about how they see it and how they think it should work. We're not going to prevent the public from coming, they may be able to make comments, but we're not going to respond to anything because it's not part of the adjudication process. They may have some good ideas which we might consider and we'll contact those people later on as we do the rule writing."

The advisory board consists of Gillan, Senator Tina Muna Barnes, Department of Agriculture deputy director Matt Sablan, Guam Board of Medical Examiners chairman Dr. Kia Rahmani, five medical specialists and a community-at-large member represented by University of Guam professor Dr. Michael Bevacqua. The advisory board is tasked with adding any additional medical conditions that may benefit from medicinal marijuana, determine what is an adequate dose and to hear any appeals if there are any denials of certification.

Said Gillan, "We're a little excited - we have a fairly good size shift of papers already in draft form, but we're still making sure we're refining that anticipating any questions." The enactment of the law started the nine-month timeline for Gillan to promulgate rules and regulations for the implementation which will be due around November. He says about 85% is done. "I don't see the first person getting their marijuana for medicinal use until sometime in 2016," he projected.

He adds public health is still working with Arizona's Department of Health Services on the web-based application system along with the University of Hawaii and UOG. Gillan says while the $100,000 funding is not enough, a lot of the costs will be off-set by fees. The goal ultimately is to distribute the medicinal marijuana to those who qualify at the lowest cost possible. "I'm told that an ounce on the street is about $500 or more," he added. "I'd like to be able to get it at half that. I know there are people in that industry right now are not happy about me saying that, but this medicinal use has to be available at a reasonable price."

He notes the public will be given a chance to participate as hearings and town hall meetings at a later date. The advisory board organizational meeting is set for Friday, April 10 at 2pm at Senator Barnes office.

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