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Tensions high over medicinal marijuana policy

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Tensions were high Thursday morning at the Guam Legislature where cancer patients to advocates came out for the second public hearing for the draft rules and regulations for medicinal marijuana on Guam.   

Resident Moe Cotton said, "I have cancer and I have elected to not be treated except to slow it down because I'm 80 years old and I don't mind dying. But I don't want to die with pain, so pain is my concern." in order to alleviate the pain, Cotton, a local realtor, says he more than likely would be a user of medicinal marijuana once it's implemented on Guam. He however raised concern over the $35,000 proposed costs for dispensary registration certificates and cultivation site registration certificate.

He continued, "$35,000 is going to knock out all the small farmers who would probably like to be in this business and who have been farming for 20 or 30 years. And all those people can't afford that, especially if it's a yearly fee. I think you're going to kill this program. The voters of Guam said yes to medical marijuana, and you regulators are going to kill it. In my opinion, you're going to make it so expensive."

And for Jesse Pablo, he's a medical marijuana patient not on Guam, but in the state of Washington. "From what I see, it seems too much of a bureaucratic function," he said.

He says in Washington, patients have the ability to cultivate up to 15 plants, explaining, "The thing about that it gives a lot more options for the patients - they have an understanding of this industry and when you have all those choices, the quality goes up and the prices tend to go down."

And while it's been suggested an ounce of medicinal marijuana could cost up to $500, Pablo says that's too high. "I just don't feel that would be an affordable price point given that in Washington, Oregon, California, the price average is around $150 to $200," he said.

For Andrea Pellacani, she believes the program should be about the patient- rather than government-driven. She is part of Guam Grass Roots, an organization whose mission is to provide education and outreach to patients in the community on the benefits of cannabis therapy. She said, "While we feel sensible regulations are necessary, over regulating does not allow the industry to flourish. It discourages patients from participating and does not impact the black market negatively. The draft rules are very thorough with regards to policing the businesses, doctors and patients participating in the program, however, there many areas where there are little to no language regarding item such as environmental waste water, handling agricultural guidelines, proper labeling guidelines, quality control guidelines, proper cannabis handling, etc."

Pellacani disclosed that she plans to procure licensing of medical cannabis on Guam and has met with cultivators, dispensaries and a network of consultants in the cannabis industry across the nation. Public Health officials meanwhile noted the $35,000 proposed fee is not set in stone and could change following the public hearings.

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