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GMA spots flaws in marijuana bill

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THE Guam Medical Association has identified purported flaws in the medical marijuana bill, which the association’s board said was drafted and introduced without consulting the medical community.

“One would think that a (piece of) legislation to legalize a psycho-tropic substance requiring a healthcare provider's prescription would come before (the medical community) for input,” GMA Executive Director Pram Sullivan said in an email to association members.

The 12-page bill introduced on Friday by Sens. Tina Muña-Barnes and Aline Yamashita seeks to authorize the use of cannabis for medical purposes and establishes corresponding regulations.

Bill 215, titled “Joaquin Concepcion Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013,” authorizes medical practitioners to prescribe cannabis without facing criminal and civil penalties.

The bill would allow marijuana prescriptions for serious illness and debilitating conditions including cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, those admitted into hospice care, post-traumatic stress disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, or other chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorders, or any other condition approved by the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

Sullivan said the Guam Board of Medical Examiners was not consulted on the bill either. “The conditions for which patients are qualified for usage is basically leaving it up to the Department of Public Health to determine,” she added.

No studies

Dr. Peter Lombard, an ophthalmologist, opposed the inclusion of glaucoma in the list of illnesses that would be approved for marijuana treatment.

“To date, no studies have shown that marijuana can safely and effectively lower intraocular pressure better than the variety of drugs currently on the market,” Lombard said. “There are no National Eye Institute studies in the United States concerning the use of marijuana to treat glaucoma.”

Lombard cited the position of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which concluded that “no scientific evidence has been found that demonstrates increased benefits and/or diminished risks of marijuana use to treat glaucoma compared with the wide variety of pharmaceutical agents now available.”

No DEA protection

Sullivan also noted that since the bill doesn’t have any input from the federal government, specifically the Drug Enforcement Agency, it runs the risk of contradicting federal statutes, which lists marijuana as a “controlled substance.”

“The legislation calls it a ‘controlled substance,’ but on the other hand, they are allowing the free cultivation of marijuana by ‘care takers,’” Sullivan said.

She also said some GMA members are concerned that the bill lacks clarity on how the government can prevent abuse.

“How will this substance be controlled if it is allowed to be grown at home and allowed open access to minors? How will the employers do drug-testing on individuals who may now be under the influence of marijuana and the liability it will hold for employers?” she asked.

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