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Medical Marijuana: Guam Senator Introduces Bill

At 4:20pm last Tuesday, Guamanian Sen. Rory Respicio introduced Bill 420, the Compassionate Health Care Act of 2010, to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana on the island, a US territory. The bill would set up a dispensary system and would also allow patients and caregivers to possess up to three ounces of weed, three mature plants, and four seedlings.
Rory Respicio
"We want to file this at 4:20pm to tie-in with the symbolism and the whole meaning behind 4/20," Respicio said. But the veteran Democratic lawmaker quickly clarified that the bill does not address non-medical use. "We're not advocating the use of cannabis for recreational types of activity at all," he clarified.

On Thursday, after consulting with legislative analysts from the Marijuana Policy Project, Respicio revised the bill and reintroduced it as Bill 423. The revisions included changing the wording so that doctors can recommend, not prescribe, medical marijuana, creating an oversight commission, and removing language that would have decriminalized the possession of up to an ounce of weed.

"I believe the discussion should focus on the medicinal use of cannabis for patient care and on providing treatment for those in need," Respicio told the Pacific Daily News Wednesday. "Unfortunately, discussion has concentrated on everything related to cannabis except how it can help these seriously ill patients."

The bill would mandate that the Department of Public Health develop administrative rules, procedures, and regulations for dispensaries, or compassionate care centers. Under the bill, dispensary operators would be required to divulge where their product would be cultivated and provide that specified safety and security measures are in place.

The legislation would require the Department of Public Health to develop administrative rules, forms, procedures and regulations for the compassionate care centers. Those running the centers would also be required to submit the location of the center where the marijuana would be cultivated, as well as the security and safety measures that would be in place.

Respicio said he crafted the bill in close consultation with local doctors, including Guam Medical Association president-elect Dr. Thomas Shieh. "We think that we can get the support of Dr. Shieh, and he's been reaching out to other medical professionals, as well as Dr. Chris Dombrowski, who's been a the forefront of this debate for more than a decade," said Respicio.

But Respicio still has some work to do. Dr. Shieh told the Pacific News Center Wednesday that he was not yet on board. "Right now I can't support something that the effect of it is socially bad for the community," said Shieh, adding that approving medical marijuana would make it easier for young people and people without recommendations to obtain it.

"All of those concerns are very legitimate," retorted Respicio. "Oh, how are you gonna prevent people from taking their medical marijuana and giving it to someone else? Well, how are you gonna prevent someone with Xanax as a prescription and giving it to someone else? How are you gonna prevent these kinds of things? Well you don't and you can't but what you can do is have penalties for people who misuse this," said the senator.

Respicio added that he had presented the bill to Dr. Shieh for review three weeks ago. "At some point we just have to file it and continue to get the support of many individuals not just doctors, but you're also talking about veterans you're talking about cancer patients who have been appealing for the legislature to do something like this," he explained.

Respicio said that he knows the idea is controversial, but he hoped the public would give it serious consideration. "I just ask the people of Guam to pause for a moment and if they're afraid of something I am trying to do, they really should be more afraid of something like alcohol and the effects it has on the human mind and body more than the effects marijuana has," he said.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Go Guam!

This is great. Medical marijuana is about science overcoming fear. It is troubling how many doctors ignore studies that show the effectiveness of marijuana. But then some doctors are politically minded. Thankfully, the trend is toward policy based on science. Medical marijuana is part of that trend.

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