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Back Local News Marijuana referendum bill lapses into law, cleared for ballot

Marijuana referendum bill lapses into law, cleared for ballot

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A BILL calling for a referendum on the proposed legalization of medical marijuana lapsed into law without the governor’s signature last night, signaling the resumption of community debate on whether Guam is ready to follow the footsteps of other states.

Bill 215, titled The Joaquin 'KC' Concepcion II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013, will be on the ballot in November.

Though a “yes or no” vote, the electorate will decide whether to support the proposed measure authored by Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes and co-sponsored by Sen. Aline Yamashita.

“Gov. (Eddie) Calvo is concerned about certain legal questions that have been raised,” a press release from the governor’s office said. “However, he believes in the people’s right to decide and will not stand in the way of a referendum.”

Bill 215 seeks to authorize medical practitioners to prescribe cannabis for serious illnesses and debilitating conditions without facing criminal or civil penalties.

“Gov. Calvo believes the voters of Guam will make the best decision, in the interests of Guam, so long as there is healthy debate and the presentation of facts for all voters to see,” the governor’s office said.

The original measure did not require a referendum on the issue but the divisive nature of the proposal prompted Muña-Barnes to amend the bill by placing the question before the island's voters.

Muña-Barnes said earlier a majority of senators from both parties felt that an issue of this importance should be decided by the people directly.

“Rather than losing the momentum that we have built up, and true to our commitment to the people of Guam, Sen. Yamashita and I agreed to have the matter decided by referendum and we substituted the bill to allow for that,” Muña-Barnes said in an earlier statement.

Research

Calvo is urging voters to join him in researching the legal issues and scientific questions that polarize the community, including the law enforcement and medical sectors.

He raised questions that he said the voters must also ask: “Will legalization hurt or help people? What does the medical community say about this?  How will legalization affect crime and law enforcement? How will marijuana be regulated to ensure its proper use for medical reasons? How much money will it cost to regulate this mandate? How will this be affected by existing federal law?”

At least 20 states have enacted laws legalizing medical marijuana.

The Guam Medical Association and the Guam Medical Society have expressed reluctance to support medical marijuana until further research is done and legal creases are ironed out.

Law enforcement officials said legal issues concerning consistency with federal law must be ironed out.

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