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  • By Bruce Lloyd

Guam legislature approves recreational pot

By an 8-7 vote of its 15 members, Guam's legislature Wednesday approved Bill 32-35, legalizing use of marijuana for purposes that are stated as "recreational." Guam voters approved medicinal use of marijuana in 2014.

Voting for the measure were Sens. Clynt Ridgell, its sponsor, and Joe San Agustin, Regine Biscoe Lee, Telo Taitague, Louise Muna, Jose Terlaje, Kelly Marsh-Taitano, and Speaker Tina Muna Barnes.Voting against the measure were Sens. Jim Moylan, Wil Castro, Therese Terlaje, Sabina Perez, Mary Torres, Amanda Shelton, and Telena Nelson.

“After extensive research into both the pros and cons along with data from states and territories that have legalized adult-use cannabis, the conclusion is that legalization is the best avenue for Guam. The data and science have paved a clear route toward the passage of Bill 32,” Ridgell said in a statement prior to the bill’s passage.

The Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019 seeks to develop a new industry and create a new source of taxable revenue for the government of Guam. The bill would allow the recreational use of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older and authorize its production and sale, provided it is regulated for public health, welfare, safety and taxation purposes.

“The community has been engaged in every step of the process, and the legislative process was followed precisely. Proper notice was given, and an entire day was dedicated to holding a public hearing on the bill; many calls and email messages were entertained during the requisite 10-day period to submit testimony following the public hearing; and the public comment period was extended beyond the initial 10-day period,” Ridgell said

The next move is up to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, who would have to sign it into law. Last week, the governor expressed her position on the measure, depending on the outcome of the legislature's debate.

"I haven't seen the details of the bill, but conceptually, I do support recreational marijuana. I do feel that it should be made legal and that we should be able to provide even those individuals who now need medicinal marijuana to make their lives much better pain alleviated and all the medical, anecdotal aspects...I don't think that if it's legalized, everyone's going to be walking down the street smoking marijuana because the regulations and the controls will be in there, just like you control alcohol use and tobacco use. "

Terlaje, one of the senators who voted against the bill, said she supports decriminalizing marijuana in principle “I support the current government of Guam policy that already allows the possession of marijuana, that deprioritizes the prosecution of marijuana offenses, that expands treatment courts instead of jail time for drug offenses,” Terlaje said.

However, she said the bill leaves a lot to be desired. “I voted no on Bill No. 32-35 because I still truly believe that more work needs to be done with our government agencies and within our community before taking this enormous step,” Terlaje said. “We need to bring together our experts in the government and beyond to truly determine the executive branch’s collective vision and ability to implement a retail cannabis industry on Guam at this time so that we can be prepared for any unintended consequences of legalization.”

Don't look for any pot emporiums to open any time soon on Guam. As with the medical marijuana law, there's plenty of regulatory road ahead. And don't expect to go bopping down the street, joint in hand.

First, the governor has to appoint a cannabis board to come up with workable rules which so far have eluded those trying to implement legal medical marijuana. Then, within a year, the commission has to submit proposed rules to the legislature, followed by a public hearing, Then, the lawmakers have to vote to approve the rules.

Only after those hoops are jumped through, winning yet another signature from the governor, would it be possible for pot entrepreneurs to open a legally sanctioned retail pot store.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Guam had not to come up with regulations for medicinal marijuana. Guam already has regulations. Our apologies.


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