Dr. Thomas Shieh made the statement as the community weighs in on the impact of legalizing marijuana in Guam for medical purposes.
“I don’t know of anybody overdosing on marijuana,” he said at the forum that the University of Guam students getting their Master’s in Public Administration sponsored last Wednesday night on the proposed Compassionate Healthcare Act of 2010 or Bill 423.
Democrat Sen. Rory Respicio who sponsored the bill said if it becomes law, patients must still need a doctor’s prescription to obtain marijuana and its distribution would be done under strict guidelines.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is the most commonly abused illegal drug in the United States, impairing one’s judgment and causing distorted perception.
Dr. Chris Dombrowski, Shieh, Dr. Arnold Wax, and Registered Nurse practitioner Mark Cain representing the medical community all weighed in on the issue.
UOG Professor Ron McNinch, Ph.D., acted as the moderator.
Questions were asked about the addictiveness of marijuana compared to alcohol and tobacco, the difference Guam’s culture might make on the final legislation, the potential for the drug to fall into the wrong hands, and how patients might factor into the workplace.
Respicio made clear his bill’s intent was to make Cannabis available to patients who need it for medical purposes.
Cain commended Respicio for the restrictions in his legislation that would make it different from California’s which he called a, “failure,” since there have been people getting prescriptions for marijuana quite easily.
On the addictiveness of marijuana, Dombrowski, a general practitioner said if at all marijuana is a “soft addiction” and that it does not cause people to lose their jobs or go out and commit crimes if their drug of choice is not available.
Cain responded by referencing the murder of Vincent Peredo earlier this year, where several perpetrators stole large bags of marijuana from his home.
However, he said that, “In its pure, use I do not see the body damage that we do with alcohol or tobacco, but the collateral damage is still there.”
Dombroski does not believe in recreational use of drugs and that all use is medicinal in nature because people are trying to self medicate, whether it be to cure boredom, depression, anxiety stress, or tension.
In response to the question of whether legalizing Cannabis for medical use might possibly make it easier for minors or criminals to access it, Respicio said that in bill 423, “We are recognizing a Supreme Court decision that said doctors [must] certify patients who need to avail themselves of cannabis for medical purposes.”
He said that in no way were they trying to make it available for recreational purposes and under the bill they will only give out three types of licenses, and there are tighter controls than those in California.
“I just want the focus to be on the people who need this for medicinal purposes. You regulate it the same way you do prescription drugs,” the senator said.
Senator Frank Aguon, Chair of the Committee on Health and Human Services, said he is not sure if the bill will make it to the floor during this session.
But he plans to work with Respicio to make the necessary amendments to make this the best it can be for the Guam community.