by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
July 22, 2015
Last year the people of Guam vote to approve the use of medical marijuana. Since then the Department of Public Health has been preparing a draft of rules for setting up the infrastructure for the growing, distribution and use of medical marijuana in Guam. Three public hearings on the draft regulations are taking place before the end of this month. They are on the following days and locations:
July 29, 9 – 11 am at the Legislature’s Public Hearing Room
July 30, 9 – 11 am at the Legislature’s Public Hearing Room
July 31, 3 – 6 pm at the Castle Mall, Mangilao, Division of Senior Citizens Conference Room.
If you are able, please come out and learn more about the regulations that are being proposed and speak your mind about what form they should take. I am part of the advisory board that is overseeing this process, and the input of the public is essential to make certain that the system set up for medical marijuana on Guam serves the community in the best possible ways.
I first became involved with this issue last year. I was approached by the family of the late Joaquin Concepcion, known to many as the singer “Savage K.” They were spearheading the effort to get the public to approve the Joaquin ‘KC’ Concepcion II Compassionate Canabis Use Act, which would legalize medical marijuana locally. Savage K’s aunt is Teresita Flores who teaches in Chamorro Studies at the University of Guam. I was happy to help, especially after talking to her and other manåmko’ about their thoughts on the issue. I remember when I was conducting interviews with elders as part of research projects 10 and 15 years ago. The manåmko’ I spoke to were very much against the use of marijuana, even para åmot ha’, just for medicine. But things have changed. Today, people are living for years with terrible pains, and now more than ever the community seems to appreciate the pain relief that medical marijuana can provide people with few other options.
We held a screening at the University of Guam for the film “The Culture High” which illuminates the complicated history of cannabis and how people have come to have distorted perceptions about its use and effects. It was very eye-opening for those who attended, as many had impressions of marijuana as a drug that does little more than destroy lives, or that it is just something for “good times.”
In November, the people spoke and approved the medical marijuana bill. It was a historic moment and Guam received attention from around not just the United States but the world, as the first territory of the United States to pass this type of legislation.
It was an important occasion, as the people had made a good choice for the benefit of our most vulnerable family, friends and neighbors. Guam was once a place that prided itself on the use of natural remedies, i che’cho’ suruhanu or yo’åmte for our ailments. It was so inspiring to see the people of Guam recognize the value of cannabis para åmot ha’.
Changes in our diet and our lifestyle have led to serious and terrible new health problems. In the campaign for the passage of medical marijuana the Concepcion family asked people simple questions such as “Håyi hao?” and “Håyi hit?” Who are you and who are we? They called on people to question what they really know about cannabis and its use, and consider how much was myth and how much was truth. Part of the functioning of any community is the ability to see the way the social contract works best when we have the ability to see beyond just ourselves, but be able to envision ourselves as connected to others across space, but also across time. To see the generations before and the generations to come, and even what we might become ourselves in time.
The Concepcion family asked people to consider the fact that even if they are not sick now, one day they will be older and may become ill. Do they want to be fighting for this type of relief when they are older? Or do we as an island community have the foresight to recognize the potential value of cannabis in terms of helping the terminally ill? I was so grateful that the voters listened to the stories of the Concepcion family and others, who talked about the relief that cannabis had brought to their loved ones when nothing else seemed to help them.
Most of the members of the advisory board are medical practitioners , and although I am a “Dr.” I am not a medical doctor. My role on the advisory board is to represent the community and express their thoughts, concerns and recommendations. I will unfortunately not be able to attend the three public hearings as I’ll be offisland, but I want to invite people to please email me with their comments so that I can present them to the advisory board as a whole. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.