Guam has made little progress in getting the medical marijuana program off the ground, and Sen. Louise Muna. R-Yigo, on Tuesday said she will soon introduce a bill to allow home cultivation of medical marijuana to help patients with debilitating health conditions.
The program depends on someone operating an independent testing laboratory for the marijuana, but no one has applied to start one.
Muna said she was hoping that there would be progress with the testing lab, but an informational hearing on Tuesday indicated that Guam is still far from having one, while patients continue to seek help.
“This is probably the opportunity now for me to get the home cultivation bill introduced so that we can get the medicinal cannabis in the hands of the patients that need it,” Muna said.
Department of Public Health and Social Services Acting Director Leo Casil told Sen. Dennis Rodriguez and other senators that there is no applicant for an independent testing laboratory, which would cost about $1 million to set up.
Proponents of medical marijuana, including patient Jonathan Savares, asked senators and health officials whether the law could be amended to waive the requirement of a testing lab.
Savares said it’s sad to see patients not getting access to medication they need “because we’re still stuck with this lab (issue).” He said Hawaii bypassed the laboratory requirement for years, and Guam could also do so.
Grassroots Movement managing partner Andrea Pellacani said if the testing lab requirement is waived, then the government can place more stringent requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries to still help ensure the health and safety of patients.
Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee asked if marijuana samples can be sent to off-island testing laboratories instead of requiring samples to be tested here.
Savares also stated his frustration over what he said was a lack of legal, employment and other protections for medical marijuana patients.
Pellacani said the attorney general of Guam continues to refuse to issue legal guidelines to doctors.
Muna said he bill would allow only those patients who obtained certification from Public Health to cultivate cannabis plants at home. It could be introduced by next week, she said.
As of Tuesday, 13 patients submitted their application for a registry ID card for qualified patients, according to Dr. Suzanne Kaneshiro of Public Health.
The 13 are among the 93 who picked up applications with Public Health from January 2017 to March 2018, Kaneshiro said.
Muna said the current medical marijuana law mentions home cultivation,but it is not specific.
“This bill will make it specific,” the senator said.
Guam voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana during the 2014 general election, but the program can’t start without an independent testing laboratory, among other things.
Casil said Public Health is doing its best to get the program off the ground, but cited a lack of experts,a lack of funding and other resources. At this stage, the department is researching a tracking system and a comprehensive database, he said.
“Get the program stood up, that’s my request,” Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, Jr., said.