Attorney says Organic Act prohibits legalization of marijuana
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - Concerns have been raised about whether lawmakers can actually proceed with a measure to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. Senator Tina Muna Barnes isn't giving up on her pursuit of legalizing marijuana locally for medicinal purposes.
Sen. Barnes stated, "I think it's important that the people understand that this is my job as a policymaker and looking at seeing what we could do to facilitate this bill moving."
But local attorney Howard Trapp, who is in favor of medical marijuana, believes the Organic Act prohibits passage of such a law on Guam. "I looked at the Organic Act and I have to say that there is no way whatsoever that we can do this," he shared. "With all respect to the supporters of this. I think they're just kidding themselves."
The Organic Act specifically states that "the legislative power of Guam shall extend to all rightful subjects of the Legislature not inconsistent with the laws of the United States applicable to Guam." Trapp added, "A local law allowing you to possess or deliver marijuana is clearly a law inconsistent with the laws of the United States, Chapter 13 Title 21 of the federal code says Guam can't do it."
Barnes, however, believes it's all a matter of interpretation and says other states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use. "I can respect that if you have five or ten different attorneys in the room you're going to get ten different interpretations - again, that could be a matter of interpretation but I truly believe that based on the guidance that was given to us through the Organic Act that we are within are realm to introduce legislation to move forward," he said.
But Trapp argues, "It's not an opinion. It's the Organic Act. All you have to do is know how to read. You don't have to be some expert attorney to know how to read.
"The difference is California has its own constitution and there's nothing that prevents them from doing anything they want with drugs one way or the other."
The local attorney says if the Guam Legislature chooses to ignore him and proceed with passing the measure and it is signed into law, "It's not worth the paper it's written on. it will not be a law because it's inconsistent. It will be a dead letter." He doesn't believe any medical practitioner would write prescriptions for medical marijuana either, even if the bill were to become law, especially if there are questions lingering about its applicability to Guam.
Trapp concluded, "Nobody can say that the federal laws are not applicable to Guam because they say so. So forget about it, we're wasting our time. Stop having hearings. Take the bill, tear it up and go do something else. "
Senator Barnes meanwhile says she is working with the committee to make amendments to the measure following the two previous public hearings on the bill.