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Public hearings begin on medicinal marijuana

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The first of three public hearings kicked-off on Wednesday morning for the proposed rules and regulations for medicinal marijuana on Guam.  

"You're setting this up to fail from the beginning," proclaimed August Fest. After months of work by Public Health officials and several governmental stakeholders, the draft rules and regulations for medicinal marijuana finally went up for public scrutiny today at the Guam Legislature. Fest was one of more than a handful of people who came out to testify on the proposal.

He spoke on concerns over the rules, saying it "looks like government abuse racketeering in extortion". Fest added, "Why do we need $35,000 to open up a pharmacy of one product, which you're going to do with this? And I read all the different rules and all the different stipulations you have here - a lot of them don't even exist on this island or in America. Period."

According to the draft, licenses to operate a dispensary or cultivation site are set at $1,000 with registration certificates at $35,000. Fest further noted nowhere in the rules does it prohibit home cultivation.

Meanwhile, Andy Andres from the Employers Council is opposed to the legalization of medicinal marijuana and told Public Health that as the law continues to evolve, adverse employment actions for marijuana use is becoming more confusing. He stated, "Especially for employers without clear workplace drug policies and especially when marijuana use takes place outside working hours and has no readily discernible impact on behavior at work, especially in situations where job performance is not monitored."

Others like farmer Ernie Wusstig hasn't read the rules just yet, but wanted to ensure those putting the rules together put patients before the money. "They should allow those patients to grow their own medicinal marijuana, because it's about them, it's not about us making money," he shared.

Public Health has estimated the price of medicinal marijuana could range from $500 or more for an ounce, a big concern for Franklin Meno, who said, "My question is what kind of subsidies will be provided for like welfare for example, financial assistance. There are patients who can't walk, much less hold a job - how are they going to afford a $500 price tag?"

Division of Environmental Health administrator Tom Nadeau says the fees can be changed after the hearings, but stressed money is needed to properly carry out the law. "We have to make this program run," he emphasized.

A second public hearing continues at 9am at the Guam Legislature.

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