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Officials learn about medicinal marijuana from the States

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Officials from the Guam Department of Public Health recently returned from Arizona and California, where they were able to gain exposure on how the mainland handles medicinal marijuana.

"When you start looking at people's needs, we'd like to get this going as soon as possible," explained James Gillan, director of Public Health. He notes efforts in moving forward with the implementation of medicinal marijuana on Guam, citing part of that effort being staff from the Division of Environmental Health get trained and learn from other states who have experience on the matter. "If you don't know really what things look like and how they work and you try to guess at it, or read about it, sometimes that works, but I think in this case you had to have hands-on," he continued.

Staff went to Arizona's Health Department to gain exposure on the state's regulatory activity and information technology. "When they walked into the dispensary, they saw the security systems, how they lock up everything at the end of the night, how almost impenetrable the facility is - you get the idea that's the kind of facility that you want to have," Gillan shared. He's stated before that he wants to use Arizona as a model on how to implement medicinal marijuana as he believes it's been carried out efficiently in the state.

He adds part of the trip allowed staff to also visit the Steep Hill Lab in Berkeley, California, saying, "When you go to a laboratory that does the testing and apparently this one in California has a good reputation. The things that they do and the kinds of equipment they have, so we can know what we're going to do with this."

According to its website, steep hill is an independently owned and operated cannabis analysis, biotechnology and research and development facility. Part of steep hill's goal is "to empower cultivators, dispensaries, manufacturers and consumers with a transparent understanding of cannabis science." In the meantime, while the trip has helped public health learn more, it's also made them realize some challenges ahead particularly in regards to the need for more adequate staffing.

"The people who have been going to these sessions in Arizona, people who have been working on the regulations and presentations have been taken off of some of the jobs they need to do, and this division is already underfunded and understaffed," he said. "So I'm asking Senator [Tina] Barnes, we're going to present a staffing budget to her and I will say we cannot carry this program out unless we have that," said Gillan.

He adds Environmental Health cannot oversee the regulatory program for medicinal marijuana, as there would also be a conflict because the division already oversees the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and the Controlled Substances Program. These concerns and a summary of the trip will all be unveiled when Public Health holds a media presentation on June 19 at 9am at Castle Mall in Mangilao.

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