Sunday, September 29, 2013

On the Subject of Sohnge

Shieh and Siguenza debate legalization of Marijuana

Guam News - Guam News 
Guam - The Rotary Club of Guam held a debate on the legalization of both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. Dr. Tom Shieh debated against the legalization while former Chief Justice Pete Siguenza debated for the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana.

The pros and cons of marijuana were argued today during a debate at the Rotary Club of Guam. Sporting a biker jacket and tattoos the now retired former Guam Supreme Court Chief Justice Pete Siguenza argued for the legalization and regulation of marijuana for both medicinal use and recreational use. He says that the war on drugs has been as much as a failure as the long time repealed prohibition on alcohol.

"We've been at this war on drugs since 1970 that's what more than 40 years and there's no end in site apparently. It's going to keep going the way it is until somebody makes the change, somebody stands up to the prohibitionists, somebody stands up to the temperance league,”

He also argued that the scheduling of drugs is ridiculous. schedule ii includes drugs like pcp, morphine, methamphetamines and cocaine. Schedule one includes extreme hallucinogens like LSD, peyote, mescaline, but for some reason it also includes marijuana. "Marijuana is a schedule one substance and I think that's ridiculous. So if we're gonna rely on, the people are gonna rely on the federal government to let them know what is dangerous and what is not, I suggest they look at this. Marijuana is a schedule one item and here is another point alcohol is no where to be found in any of these schedules nor is nicotine,” said Siguenza.

 Dr. Tom Shieh is against the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes and he's not convinced of it's use medicinally until he sees more conclusive evidence. "The acute intoxication can impair short term memories impair attention coordination and balance you wouldn't smoke marijuana and go out and drive a car let alone ride a bike or go out into a race track and drive a hot rod you're not going to do that,” said Dr. Shieh. He also argues that the potency of marijuana is increasing significantly compared to the marijuana of the 60's and 70's. "But now you're coming with hybrid plants you're coming with genetically engineered plants these plants are now the potency are very high. Some go up to 20 percent of THC that's in there so when you take a puff of the marijuana the effects of it are pretty high,” said Dr. Shieh.

 As for medicinal use Dr. Shieh says he has yet to see the evidence supporting it's medical benefits. "I wanna see the evidence if not you can sue me for malpractice if I was taking care of a patient and say hey it's your common sense go and smoke marijuana it's gonna decrease your anxiety it's gonna decrease your depression but i have no evidence to show you that it does have those effects. It's called anecdotal. Anecdotal effects are not scientifically based,” said Dr. Shieh.

 Siguenza brought up the fact that CNN's leading medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta was once opposed to medical marijuana but after doing more research has since changed his mind and now sees the benefit. "The leading medical correspondent for CNN news changes his mind and he now in public has said I apologize. He says I apologize, I didn't read the material close enough I didn't look at all the other studies that are available from other countries. The FDA response is we didn't study marijuana, why? Because, it's a catch 22, it's an illegal substance,” said Siguenza. The retired Chief Justice also believes that alcohol is far more dangerous than marijuana. "There were 50 thousand deaths on average caused by alcohol each year. Direct deaths from marijuana as far as the material I've read zero none. When was the last time you've ever heard of a domestic violence case where marijuana was involved? None. Alcohol almost all the time, yet we still have alcohol legal,” said Siguenza.

 Dr. Shieh argued that although legalizing marijuana could create more business opportunities . "I almost guarantee you you're gonna have a hundred marijuana stores down the street the entire Tumon is going to have marijuana bars but I think the question here is are you willing to take the risks of intoxication and accidents and the impact on healthcare I can tell you is gonna be in the millions and millions of dollars,” said Dr. Shieh. Siguenza countered saying that marijuana, just like alcohol, would be regulated and it would be illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.
 "I've never smoked marijuana by the way okay,” said Dr. Shieh “I rest my case," replied retired Justice Siguenza igniting laughter from Rotarians. Today's debate was sparked by the recent introduction of Resolution 201 by Senator Tina Muna Barnes. It's a resolution that supports the decriminalization of marijuana and supports it's medicinal use.


Former chief justice, doctor debate medical marijuana

Posted: Sep 26, 2013 4:57 PM Updated: Sep 26, 2013 7:10 PM
by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Should marijuana be legalized on Guam? It's a question that's not only been raised in the island community over the past few months but before the Rotary Club of Guam today.
It was exactly one week ago when Dr. Chris Dombrowski spoke before Rotarians on medical marijuana. Today they were once again treated to the subject this time in debate form with another medical professional and a former hand of the law. Former chief justice Peter Siguenza asked Rotarians to evaluate today's arguments and apply common sense and their own experiences, noting, "I urge you to do that and I think you will conclude that medical marijuana and marijuana for social use should be allowed."

As for Dr. Thomas Shieh, he says consider the dangers and consequences of marijuana abuse. "Now marijuana, should we legalize this for recreational use? I don't think so," he said.

Siguenza related the debate on marijuana on learning from past mistakes such as the prohibition of alcohol. He says its been more than 40 years since the war on drugs started with apparently no end in sight only until somebody makes the change. He adds marijuana is labeled as a scheduled one substance joining the ranks of LSD, heroin, peyote and mescaline ahead of some scheduled two substances such as PCP, morphine, methodone and opium.

He further criticizes how alcohol is not even on the schedules despite how addictive it may be, saying, "So ask yourself why is it that alcohol, nicotine and for that matter caffeine are not on scheduled controlled substances and yet marijuana is a Scheduled I substance," he stated.

Dr. Shieh agrees that marijuana should be taken off of Scheduled I and put on Scheduled II so that physicians can study the drug and manufacture it. He does however disagree that just because alcohol is legal so should marijuana. "Well, we already have one harmful chemical out in the public, you don't need another one and as doctors and nurses we see that everyday," he said.

And medically speaking, he further stressed how marijuana is a psychotropic drug meaning the affect goes straight to your brain. "It can impair short memory, impair attention, coordination and balance, you wouldn't smoke marijuana and drive a car let alone ride a bike or go on a race track and drive a hotrod, you're not going to do that," he said.

He adds marijuana can cause hallucinations, dependency, withdrawal and have carcinogens causing cancer. In the long term he says can even lead to addiction. He states the benefits to using marijuana recreationally are simply anictodal affects and are not scientifically based adding when you're in a court of law, it's about evidence not common sense as Siguenza had noted.

Siguenza continued to relate his argument to alcohol saying if alcohol can be legalized with restrictions, why can't marijuana not only for medical use but socially as well. "We are responsible adults we can handle alcohol those who have problems with it, we have measures to deal with that though we're 50 thousand deaths on average directly caused by alcohol each year, direct deaths from marijuana as far as the material that I have read, zero, none," he said.

Shieh meanwhile says while smoking marijuana may not directly kill a person, it does have an even dangerous affect when mixed with alcohol, something he says is a common practice in regards to recreational use. He further discussed the states of Washington and Colorado which recently approved the legalization of marijuana. Not everything is high on life there as he says problems have occurred with conflicts between state and federal law.

He said, "That's going to be a problem for us doctors 1702because we don't want to lose our license the DEA is going to come down on us for prescription violation, etc. they're going to catch us and put us in the jail, we don't want that period."

Rotarians further questioned both speakers such as whether marijuana is more dangerous on the human brain than alcohol to what are the economic consequences should marijuana be legalized. Siguenza says if controlled like alcohol and taxed, it could generate high revenues. Dr. Shieh however says if legalized, he could almost guarantee that marijuana stores could be opening up everywhere adding if its anything like alcohol and the level of impact it has on healthcare, he estimates an affect in the millions of dollars.


Legalizing medical marijuana favored

LOCAL physician Chris Dombrowski told members of the Rotary Club of Guam last week that if medical marijuana were legalized, about 10 or 15 percent of his family practice patients would “do well” with it.

“I would use cannabis the same way that other physicians utilize ... Xanax, valium, Prozac, Cymbalta,” he said. “Cannabis is used as an anti-anxiety agent, for relaxation, for muscle spasticity, as an antidepressant, for insomnia. It is also being used for ADHD – attention deficit disorder – in a self-medicating way.”

A major objection most physicians have is determining a correct and consistent dosage, he said. While traditional physicians are accustomed to prescribing precise doses of most medicines, he said patients could determine their own doses of marijuana.

“You can always take two tokes, wait half an hour to see how you feel,” he said. “Then take two more tokes, and titrate it yourself.”

Dombrowski acknowledges that a problem with the legalization of marijuana is users driving under its influence. “Is there a problem driving under the influence of it? Of course,” he said. “The problem is how do you declare someone intoxicated when they’re under the influence? … Especially since cannabis is fat-soluble. You can smoke a joint today and be sober for the next six days but the cannabis will still be in your system a week from today.”

He said he doesn’t believe in the recreational use of drugs, but that those who use drugs on their own are self-medicating.

Unlike tobacco, no case of lung cancer has ever been attributed to smoking marijuana. And there is some evidence that it protects against brain cancer and breast cancer as well as against Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s disease, he said.

It also has the social benefit of breeding “harmony and friendship,” Dombrowski said. “It does not breed violence.”


Legalization of marijuana on Guam debated in Rotary meeting

WITH both Colorado and Washington recently decriminalizing recreational marijuana, it was only a matter of time before residents on Guam spoke up and joined the conversation.

Dr. Thomas Shieh and former chief justice Peter Charles Siguenza discussed the positive and negative aspects of legalizing marijuana on Guam at the Rotary Club of Guam meeting yesterday.

Shieh argued as an opponent of the legalization of marijuana while Siguenza spoke in favor of lawful regulated marijuana use.

Shieh maintained that marijuana has lasting harmful effects on the human brain and body. The physician listed several effects, including the impairment of one’s short-term memory, coordination and balance, sleep patterns, and addiction. “It is a psychotropic drug. It affects your entire brain,” Shieh said.

Both debaters commonly compared alcohol and marijuana during the discussion.

Siguenza questioned the validity of the harms associated with marijuana versus alcohol. He asserted that individuals who drink alcohol cause more harm than marijuana users do. He cited the violent conduct of people under the influence of both substances. “There were 50,000 hits on average directly caused by alcohol each year. Direct hits from marijuana? Zero. None,” Siguenza said.

“If we’re going to have legalized alcohol, with restrictions, I see no difference between that and marijuana,” Siguenza said.

Gag reflex

Shieh said marijuana use reduces an individual’s gag reflex, which is why the substance is helpful for cancer patients’ nausea during chemotherapy. The same diminished gag reflex may also lead to alcohol poisoning if marijuana and alcohol are jointly consumed. “A lot of college students binge drink and smoke marijuana at the same time. They don’t have their gag reflex, so that’s how they get alcohol poisoning,” the physician said.

Siguenza argued that cannabis was less harmful than substances such as cocaine and morphine, but was still considered more damaging as the federal government has classified it as a schedule 1 substance.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, schedule 1 drugs are “the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Siguenza pointed out that cocaine and morphine are classified as less damaging drugs.


Siguenza stressed that his stance was for the legal use of cannabis for the responsible adult and for the government to tax sales.

“You can have a hundred responsible people and have one irresponsible person who can come in and cause a lot of harm, and that affects society,” Shieh said.

“Why hold responsible adults accountable for one irresponsible adult’s actions. Treat these people, get them help and leave the rest of us alone,” Siguenza replied.

Shieh also commented on the possibility of widespread cannabis use if the drug is legalized. “When Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes passes the bill for legalized marijuana, how many marijuana stores do you think will pop up? The entire Tumon will have marijuana bars, probably,” the physician said.

The debate comes on the heels of Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes’ resolution, introduced last month, to decriminalize the controlled substance.

The senator was at the debate and clarified the intent of her bill: “When the resolution was introduced, we looked at three approaches. One was medical relief, the other was having law enforcement focus on harsher crimes, and the last one was decriminalization – not putting someone in jail for a single possession,” Barnes said.

Amid questions and comments from the audience, Shieh said he had not tried marijuana before.

“Well, there’s my case,” Siguenza replied, good-heartedly.


Residents Want Marijuana Legalized
Dance Aoki
Pacific Daily News

Most of the residents who spoke at a hearing yesterday called for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use.

The controversial issue of decriminalizing marijuana was opened for discussion during a hearing at the Guam Legislature yesterday afternoon.

Resolution 201, introduced by Sen. Tina Muña Barnes, D-Mangilao, calls for the decriminalization of marijuana.

Those who submitted testimony advocated for medical uses of the drug to relieve symptoms of ailments such as glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and the side effects of chemotherapy.
Joaquin Concepcion, father of Joaquin Castro Concepcion II, also known as Savage K, said marijuana provided relief to his son during a battle against stage four gastric cancer -- a battle the younger man lost in July.

Concepcion said his son endured 34 excruciating treatments of chemotherapy in Washington state.
"It's the price you have to pay to prolong your life," he said.

Concepcion said marijuana helped alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy.

Debbie Quinata, 60, of Umatac placed a row of orange prescription bottles on the public hearing table.

"The amount of drugs I have to take because I have no other option are deadly," Quinata said, noting that she is prescribed medicine for her medical condition and more medicine to address side effects.
She said marijuana would offer an alternative to the medication she's already taking.

She said the drug should be controlled, just as alcohol is, but she didn't want to be considered a criminal for using a substance that would relieve the symptoms occurring as a result of other medication.

After the public hearing, Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas said in a release that possession and use of an ounce or less of the drug has essentially been decriminalized for 20 years on Guam.

He said the evidence for and against the issue should be presented without emotion when new policy is being considered.


Legalizing Marijuana up for discussion
Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News

The issue of whether to legalize marijuana on Guam could be introduced as a bill or put before Guam's voters as an initiative, according to Sen. Tina Muña Barnes, whose office continues to receive public comment on the issue.

Barnes, D-Mangilao, last month introduced a legislative resolution "for the decriminalization of cannabis" so local law enforcement and the island's prison can focus more of their strained resources on murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and other violent crimes.

The resolution also states it aims to "enhance individual, personal and political freedom and liberty."
A Sept. 11 public hearing on the resolution drew public comments in favor of allowing marijuana use for medical and quality-of-life reasons, for people dealing with prolonged ailments.

Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Chris Duenas, R-Sinajana, said discussion on the possibility of legalizing marijuana should be confined to medical use.

Duenas said he'd like to hear input from the medical community as the debate continues.
But while the discussion on the medical use of marijuana is worthwhile, Duenas said, the issue ranks within the "moderate-to-low" range on his list of pressing community priorities.

"There are more pressing matters in the community that we need to take care of," Duenas said.
Paying tax refunds on time and adequately funding and providing public education and public safety services rank higher on his list of priorities, Duenas said.

A resolution states the sentiments of the Legislature, but it isn't a bill or a law, and Barnes said some members of the island's medical community have said they won't provide official comment unless they see legislation introduced.

According to the island's attorney general, Guam's existing laws effectively decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, requiring a fine instead of lengthy prison sentence.
Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is considered a criminal violation and punishable by a $100 fine.

Simple possession of more than an ounce of marijuana is considered a petty misdemeanor punishable by no more than 60 days in prison and by a fine of no more than $500, the AG's office states.
In 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, medical marijuana is legal, the National Cancer Institute states.

Local and federal laws

If marijuana ever becomes legal on Guam for medical use, military veterans may find themselves in a tough position.

A Veterans Health Administration directive, issued in 2011 and which is in effect through 2016, states "laws authorizing the use of Schedule I drugs, such as marijuana, even when characterized as medicine, are contrary to federal law," and there are criminal penalties associated with production, distribution and possession.

Barnes said she introduced the resolution as a "facilitator" to stir public discussion.
She said a military veteran had asked if she could help ease the pain of former military personnel suffering from the trauma of a war zone.

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