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A pair of bills to establish guidelines for Guam’s stalled medical marijuana program are likely to go before lawmakers for debate during their October session.

Voters approved the Joaquin KC Concepcion II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act in the 2014 General Election, and the Department of Public Health and Social Services drafted the rules and regulations for the program.

However, after receiving public opposition to those rules, Sen. Tina Muna Barnes, D-Mangilao, introduced a bill this summer to reject the proposed bylaws and wrote two other bills, to address the concerns. Barnes is running for re-election.

Bill 343-33 addresses the cost to operate a medical marijuana dispensary and patient-privacy safeguards. Bill 344-33 would make home cultivation legal by allowing qualified patients to grow as many as six plants in their own home.

“It’s a start that this program can be built off of,” Barnes said at the beginning of Wednesday’s public hearing. “I want to remind you that every state’s program is different and we as a community must work to look at what works best on our island and we can only do that when we get this program implemented. We’re near the finishing line.”

Barnes noted that Bill 343 would require marijuana manufacturers to have the plants tested to ensure the products being sold are in fact medical grade cannabis.

Andrea Pellacani, president of the local group Women Grow Guam, told lawmakers Wednesday night that, aside from minor changes, the bills should be ready for session deliberation.

One issue that worries stakeholders, including Pellacani, is the lack of support from the medical community. It’s not clear which doctors, if any, will be open to recommending marijuana to patients once the dispensaries open.

In 2013, when Barnes and former Sen. Aline Yamashita introduced the Cannabis Use Act, the Guam Medical Society opposed it. Other medical leaders, such as Dr. Thomas Shieh have said doctors could be apprehensive about recommending marijuana as treatment while the drug is still considered a Schedule I substance by the federal government.

Shieh on Thursday said he did not wish to comment on the ongoing development of the program.

Pellacani expressed disappointment that local physicians and doctors haven’t participated in the series of public hearings.

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr., the chairman of the Legislature’s Committee on Health, noted Wednesday night that he did invite doctors to attend the hearing, but none had come to testify. Rodriguez also is running for re-election.

Yigo resident Dennis Flores, 54, and Piti resident Anthony Tomasello, 48, told senators they hope the program would entice off-island physicians who support medical marijuana to come to Guam.

Flores and Tomasello recently moved to the island from New Mexico and northern California, respectively. Each gave similar accounts of being prescribed opiates and other traditional forms of medicine after experiencing serious injuries.

Uncomfortable with the way they felt when taking the opiates, Flores and Tomasello said they sought out doctors willing to recommend medical marijuana.

“A lot of the side effects of the opiates were killing me,” Tomasello said. “When I was on medical marijuana, things cleared up.”

Tomasello went on to note that during his disability there was a point where he didn’t think he was ever going to be able to hold his child cause the damage he sustained to his arm during a work accident. Marijuana he explained made a substantial difference in his recovery.

Upon making the switch to medical marijuana, Flores said he saw things more clearly and found clarity in his everyday life. He said it also encouraged him to work out more and lose weight.

Sen. Rodriguez had asked the two about their experience with their personal physicians and why they had to get the medical pot recommendation from another doctor.

“I just wanted to note because we might have a problem here with our physicians, so if you’re regular physician did not participate in the program that’s why you had to see out other,” Rodriguez said.

For Tomasello, his doctor didn’t to prescribe it, but Flores stated that he never actually asked his regular doctor about it.

“I just felt more comfortable going to somebody I know that that’s what her mission was,” Flores said.

“The doctors will come out,” Flores added. “There’s doctors out there that totally believe in the nutraceutical method of treating people, so they’ll come out. It might not be initially, but those doctors will come out … those people care about their patients and that’s why they do it. They’re people who are tired of the (typical pharmaceutical) system.”


News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Physicians Remain Silent On Medical Pot Program
Author: Shawn Raymundo
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