While the 2014 referendum garnered about 20,000 votes in support of medicinal marijuana, there are members in the community who think that there has not been enough public discussion on the matter.
The bottom line, according to Tamuning resident Eugene Santos, there is a lack of information from elected leaders and public officials on the legalization of adult use of cannabis and its effects on society.
Santos calls this a disservice to the people.
“I encourage the senators, before you even pass this legislation, that they should get statements from government social services and providers, faith based groups, hospitals, clinics, school counselors, school psychologists, social-work organizations, housing bureaus, sports organizations, women and infant support groups, substance abuse centers and rehab centers. All of those people are going to be impacted… and so much more,” Santos said.
Santos also shared his views on the lack of town hall meetings, which he believes is critical to dissemination of educational material to inform the community of the impacts of cannabis.
“Where are all the town hall meetings? Why have I not been invited to town hall meetings. I can’t get away from work to go down to the legislature to testify. At least give me the opportunity in the evenings at my village, where people can actually walk to the community center. Because let’s face it, there are many countless families out there who have the inability for transportation to get to the legislature,” he said.
PNC caught up with Sen. Clynt Ridgell, author of Bill 32-35, before he stepped into the session hall to get his response on Santos’ opinion.
“I respect his opinion. We did have a public hearing. We followed all the processes required by law. The processes require that a public hearing is held, proper notices given. We had a day long hearing, longer than most pubic hearings when bills are restricted to a number of hours. We had a hearing for an entire day. And then we also met all the deadlines that are required to file a committee report. We filed it on time and so that’s why we’re here… where we are at with the bill now.”
We asked the senator his thoughts on the possibility of bringing this issue to a public referendum.
“We were elected to pass bills. Not to pass the buck. We were elected to do these types of things, to make these types of decisions. Otherwise let’s just send everything to a referendum. Why even have a legislature, let’s just referendum every piece of legislation. Obviously, that won’t work. You won’t be able to have a referendum for every piece of legislation out there so that’s why senators are elected.”
Archdiocese: strongly opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana
In a release, the Archdiocese of Agana also voiced strong opposition on legalization.
“The Archdiocese wishes to make clear to its faithful and the community in general that it strongly opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana in our island… While the Catholic Church permits the use of some drugs for therapeutic purposes such as relieving pain and nausea, it is clear about the evils of drug abuse.”
Ridgell opened this afternoon’s session citing Genesis, Chapter 1, verses 11 and 12. To paraphrase, the verse states, “God said: let the earth bring forth vegetation; every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree that bears fruit. And so it happened. And God saw that it was good.”
While Santos, the Catholic Church, and others in the community openly oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana, The Cannabis Industry Act is intended to decriminalize and regulate the adult use of cannabis. The word “recreational” does not exist in the Bill.
A town hall meeting has been schedule for 6 p.m. on Wed, Mar. 27 at the Tamuning Community Center.