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Guam’s gubernatorial candidates share thoughts on recreational marijuana

HAGÅTÑA — Guam became the first U.S. territory to legalize medical marijuana in 2014. While the medical marijuana program remains at a standstill due to the lack of an independent testing lab, advocates are pushing for legalization of recreational pot on Guam.

As the political pot begins to boil, gubernatorial candidates shared their thoughts on recreational marijuana.

Republican candidate Lt. Gov.  Ray Tenorio is not keen on legalizing recreational marijuana, a position that runs counter to that of Gov. Eddie Calvo, who endorses the exploration of recreational marijuana as a new industry to grow on Guam.

“Like medical marijuana, this is an issue the people of Guam may want to vote on directly,” he said. “As a former law enforcement officer, I have reservations about drugs in general. While there may be potential upsides to legalizing recreational marijuana, debatably in the areas of tourism and new government revenues, it must be measured carefully against public safety and potential social issues that may arise.”

Democratic candidate Lou Leon Guerrero believes recreational marijuana can generate a new source of revenue for the government.

“We support the legal adult use of marijuana. More Americans than ever acknowledge that marijuana can be used responsibly by being informed,” she said,

Leon Guerrero, president of Bank of Guam and a former senator, said regulated adult use of marijuana will allow Guam schools, roads, law enforcement and our hospital to benefit from new tax dollars.”

Taxes that can be generated from recreational marijuana “won’t raise the price of goods on our families,” she said.

Democratic Sen. Frank Aguon’s has an ambiguous position, saying the government of Guam must first address the issues related to the medical marijuana program, including the lack of an independent testing laboratory and questions related to the promulgated rules and regulations.

“It is paramount that the public health and safety of our community are met with the full implementation of a legalized medical marijuana program,”Aguon said.

“We must take a cautious approach to legalizing marijuana for recreational use. As a community, we must first endeavor to understand all aspects, both positive and negative ramifications of implementing such a policy. We must ensure the maximum benefit and safeguard of our community while at the same time mitigating possible negative outcomes.”

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, also a Democrat, is not in favor of making recreational marijuana commercially available.

“I believe legalization will inevitably attract powerful for-profit forces, and chief among my concern is that there are very powerful forces of greed and profit. I also have concerns about the safety concerns surrounding the use of marijuana. Due to its Schedule 1 designation, only very limited clinical studies on it use have been conducted,” he said.

However, Rodriguez believes Guam will benefit from medical marijuana.

“Only now is the law loosening to allow for more clinical research studies to be conducted,” he said. “I believe that Guam, with its unique status, could be a leader in this research by reaching out to ‘big pharma’ to set up a lab here on Guam. We have the perfect climate and a business-friendly environment. We are far away from the mainland and yes with have plants here.”

He is optimistic that Guam can be successful in establishing a medicinal marijuana laboratory for both research and production for export.

Former Gov. Carl Gutierrez, also a Democrat, said the marijuana business, which he said has provided economic benefits in the United States, is an industry that Guam can explore with proper regulation.

“Our team feels that if we walk before we run, and create airtight legislation and procedure, we will have more opportunities to consider things like home cultivation, and recreational use,” Gutierrez said. “Marijuana is undoubtedly an economic blessing is some areas of the United States. We feel strongly that with proper handling and processes in place for medical use of the drug, the people of Guam will be better prepared to decide on the expansion of legislation to include recreational use.”