Elected leaders speak out on medicinal marijuana

December 04, 2004

Sabrina Salas Matanane, KUAM News (Guam)

U.S. Supreme Court justices have a tough job ahead of them. Earlier this week, justices once again heard oral arguments in a case involving so-called 'medical marijuana'. We give you a look at where your elected leaders stand on the very controversial issue.

Although illegal on Guam, most of your senators-elect do support the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes in the territory. In a survey KUAM News conducted earlier this year, we asked which of your senatorial candidates would you support legalizing the use of marijuana on island for medical purposes. Those who said yes were candidates Larry Kasperbauer, Jesse Anderson Lujan, Frank Aguon, Jr., Lou Leon Guerrero, B.J. Cruz, Eddie Baza Calvo, Rory Respicio, and Ray Tenorio. Only senator-elect and incumbent policymaker Bob Klitzkie said no.

While this is not a current issue before the Legislature or the courts here in Guam, it does stand before the United States Supreme Court. While the high court heard the issue three years ago, ruling 8-0 that federal laws supercede state laws and that federal law prohibits the distribution or sale of marijuana, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in a case brought forth by Angel Raich and Diane Monson that federal prosecution of medical marijuana users who use homegrown cannabis with their doctor's permission and their state's approval unconstitutional.

Raich suffers from a brain tumor while Monson has a degenerative spinal disease. The two reportedly use marijuana medicinally, as a means of easing their constant pain.

Local physician and a former candidate for senator in 2002 Dr. Chris Dombrowski believes in the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but at the same time doesn't feel the judicial system or the political arena are the forums to be addressing such an issue. 'In the practice that I have today I would say 10-15% of my patients would benefit well under cannabis as compared to Zanax, valium, anti-anxiety agents, or what have you,' he explained. 'The science behind it affects many systems in the human nervous system; you can use it for muscle expacity, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, it has tremendous potential.'

The good doctor doesn't believe the political arena or the judicial system are proper forums to decided on the legality of using medical marijuana. He said of this point, 'I have yet to meet a politician lawyer judge or police officer that had the intellectual scientific capacity to tell me what I can and cannot prescribe to my patients. I think it's a dangerous example to use the voter initiative or the legislative route or the legal route to determine drug control policy. I think that sets a dangerous example for the future.'

Dr. Dombrowksi contends the issue of whether to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes should be determined by organizations like the National Academy of Sciences or the National Institute of Health. Such is a similar position Governor Felix Camacho has taken, as he feels it should be left to medical professionals. Said the island's chief executive about the issue, 'I think its something that certainly needs to be addressed by the Guam Medical Society, with all the healthcare professionals out there and how the territory would like to deal with this its something that requires more dialogue and discussion with all those parties concerned and all the parties.'

While the use of marijuana for any reason is currently illegal on Guam, California is one of eleven states in the mainland that has passed laws in the last eight years allowing people to grow cannabis to use for medical purposes. But the question remains as to how the government is able to determine whether people growing weed are really using it for genuine medicinal purposes, or using the cover of the law just to get high.

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