Community leaders assess challenges of cannabis industry

Marijuana leaf (PNC file photo)

Guam – A multisectoral meeting was held Wednesday in Adelup’s small conference room, where community leaders tackled the economic aspects as well as the challenges besetting a potential marijuana industry on Guam.

Chief Public Health Officer Suzanne Kaneshiro clarified the restrictions on business activity with respect to farming, manufacturing, retail and lab ownership.

“You can grow it. You can manufacture it. You can dispense it,” Kaneshiro said. “But you can’t be a lab. You can do all three but you can’t be a lab.”

Dr. Nathan  Berg, chairman of the Guam Board of Medical Examiners, shared his concerns about a potential monopoly by wealthy investors.

“To promote more even distribution, if we’re going to do this in part to promote businesses,” Berg said. “The intent is to promote more individuals who are involved with the business, otherwise you’re going to get very wealthy individuals come in and take it all.”

“So therefore, you’re knocking out the ability of someone to say, ‘Well I can cultivate because I have a skill set there,” Berg continued. “I would like to open up a retail shop. You get in, you know, someone who’s like Amazon who’s making it in China and selling it, you’re cutting out the guy who’s trying to import it. It’s just a thought as to whether or not you’re just going to get big people coming in and doing it as a posed to do we really want to promote this as a small industry.”

Whether or not bureaucrats can predict the actual impact of their policies on the nature of supply and demand in the market is unclear. Guam Economic Development Authority administrator Melanie Mendiola suggested that GEDA could create a third version of the publicly misunderstood qualifying certificate program, which allows the government of Guam to create investment incentives, both foreign and locally, toward emerging and/or new industries.

“GEDA could potentially do a third qualifying certificate specific to the medicinal, wherein… so the general advantage of the QC is in real property tax abatement, income tax abatement and use (tax abatement),” Mendiola said. “So we can issue out something almost like an RFP and a QC where you would invite five labs to submit terms and the one with the most favorable terms the QC would be authorized for them.”

This may be a welcome remark for investors like Matt Giger, who talked about plans to build a state-of-the-art cannabis laboratory for Guam and the Marianas.

Also present at the meeting was Sen. Therese Terlaje of the Committee on Health, who supports the implementation process for medicinal cannabis.

“I agree. The Legislature gives its support for implementing this program and we stand ready to help in any way,” Terlaje said. “I know that over the years, we’ve been trying to make adjustments to the original law to make it more readily implementable. So, we’re looking forward to your recommendations as to moving forward.”