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Guam high court upholds marijuana bill; separate lawsuit still pending in federal court

HAGÅTÑA — The Supreme Court of Guam has reaffirmed its earlier findings on the legality of the medical marijuana referendum, holding that the legislation that authorizes the vote process is in compliance with both Guam law and the Organic Act.

In a 22-page opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that the “legislative submission” process set forth in the Guam Code Annotated is considered a “referendum” within the meaning of the Organic Act.

“In addition, we hold that P.L. 32-134 is a legislative submission within Title 3, Chapter 16 of GCA. This law applies with the requirements of 3 GCA (16102 and 16401) because it contains a duly adopted measure that presents voters with the question of whether the Act may be adopted or rejected,” the high court stated in its opinion.

The Guam Legislature passed the bill on Feb. 1. It lapsed into law and became P.L. 32-134, without the governor’s signature.

On May 14, the legislature filed a request for declaratory judgment from the Supreme Court. Since this filing, the legislature filed its opening briefs on June 11 and the Guam Election Commission on June 25. The legislature again replied to this GEC filing.

The legislature’s request for opinion focused on three issues: whether a legislative submission is considered a “referendum” pursuant to 48 USCA 422; whether Title 3 GCA, Chapter 16 permits legislative submissions in the manner created by P.L. 32-134; and third, whether GEC may decline to place a legislative submission on the ballot because it believes it to violate Guam law.

On Aug. 5, the high court issued a preliminary order on the issue and yesterday’s opinion reaffirmed this preliminary order.

The Supreme Court took a position on the first two questions raised by the legislature regarding the validity of P.L. 32-134 which directs the GEC to place the question on the ballot in the November general election.

“The court found that legislative submissions constitute ‘referenda’ within the meaning of the Organic Act, 48 U.S.C.A. §1422a(a), and are thus valid. Further, the court ruled that the proposed measure is ‘legislation’ submitted to voters within the meaning of ‘legislative submission,’ and constituted a ‘question presented’ or ‘measure’ properly adopted by the legislature under applicable local law,” stated the opinion.

The court, however, stated that it did not have jurisdiction under the declaratory judgment statute to review the third question presented, which involved whether the GEC had the authority to refuse to comply with P.L. 32-134 based on its perceived invalidity.

In this case between the legislature and GEC, lawyer Howard Trapp appeared in court as amicus curiae, but he was not allowed to participate in the case.

This prompted Trapp to challenge the referendum before the federal court, asking a writ of prohibition to stop the question from being decided by the voters.

In this civil suit, the GEC had responded last Oct. 7 seeking dismissal of the case. Trapp’s reply is due next week.