Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sohnge News

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Public hearings on the medical marijuana regulations are taking place this week. Please try to attend them if you are able. Here is the information on them:

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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.

Here are some recent articles about the issue.

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Marijuana meeting touches on farmers, tourism
Apr. 11, 2015
by Maria Hernandez
Pacific Daily News

Draft rules and regulations for the island's medicinal marijuana program are expected to be approved and open to public comment by late April, said James Gillan, director of Guam's public health department.

In November, voters approved legalizing the use of marijuana for the treatment of certain medical conditions, making Guam the first U.S. territory to legalize medical marijuana. The drug remains a Schedule I controlled substance under local and federal law.
The Department of Public Health and Social Services, the lead agency tasked with developing guidelines and regulations under the law, has less than five months to submit rules and regulations to the Guam Legislature.

An advisory board, created under the marijuana law, met for the first time yesterday to discuss ideas for the island's medical marijuana program.

Seven of the nine council members were in attendance yesterday.
Gillan at the meeting said a pre-draft of the rules and regulations for the program is already written and that he would be approving the draft before looking it over with the advisory council.
The director will be sending the draft to all council members by April 24.
Shortly after the council provides its input, Gillan said public hearings would be held possibly before the end of April for stakeholders to comment on the draft.
Gillan said the pre-draft is based largely on Arizona's medical marijuana law.
Yesterday's informal meeting brought many questions from attendees.

Growers' association
Vice president of the Farmers Cooperative Association of Guam Ernest Wusstig attended the meeting to learn more about opportunities for local farmers.
"I want to make sure that farmers are not left out," Wusstig said. "I hope we get the first shot."
He proposed that farmers establish a marijuana growers association and administer one dispensary.
Gillan said the agency is considering allowing three dispensaries -- one each in the north, central and southern parts of Guam.
Wusstig said he hasn't brought up the idea to other farmers yet and was just considering options.

Medical tourism
Koichi Maeda, founder of the Japan Medical Marijuana Association, who's visiting the island from Tokyo, also attended the meeting. He proposed that Japanese patients be able to come to Guam to receive medical marijuana treatments.
The association, founded in 1999, has more than 200 members who are proponents of legalizing marijuana in Japan, Maeda said.
He said there are many sick patients in Japan who have cancer and other serious illnesses and view cannabis as their last chance for treatment.
Maeda added that Guam is the nearest place to Japan for residents to seek treatment.
"For some residents, it's too long to stay in the airplane to Hawaii or California," he said.
He noted that Guam would receive economic benefits from the relationship.
"We already have tens of thousands of patients who want to come here," Maeda said.
Earlier in the meeting, Gillan said medical marijuana tourism was not something he was interested in pursuing, nor something that could be pursued because it is not in compliance with the law.
Under the law, a qualified patient is a resident of Guam.
However, after Maeda's statement, he said it could be a possibility.
Sen. Tina Muña Barnes said the council could consider a qualified visiting patient's application forms.
"I want to make sure the council doesn't leave any stone unturned," she said. "If that is a question or recommendation to the committee, then we at least need to look at it."
Barnes said residents have been calling her office who are concerned about a number of issues.
Some asked why health issues that qualify in other states, weren't included in Guam's medical-marijuana law.
 Under the law, qualifying people include those with debilitating conditions such as cancer; glaucoma; multiple sclerosis; epilepsy; post traumatic stress disorder; rheumatoid arthritis or similar chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorders; HIV or AIDS; damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord, with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity; those admitted into hospice care in accordance with rules under the law; and those with any other medical condition, medical treatment or disease approved by the department.
Others were concerned that distribution and cultivation of marijuana might be near schools, she said.
Packaging was also a concern, Barnes said, because residents want to ensure children don't get their hands on the medicinal marijuana.
The council said it would review and add input from yesterday's meeting to the draft before the public hearings.

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Friday, 01 May 2015 03:00am
BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF 

Department of Public Health and Social Services Director James Gillan says the first draft of Guam’s medical marijuana regulations has been completed and sent to the medical advisory board for review. 
AT THE Medical Marijuana Policy Forum held Saturday, Department of Public Health and Social Services Director James Gillan explained why local officials are using Arizona’s medical marijuana regulations for guidance.

“The reason the Arizona model was chosen is because Will Humble is my friend,” Gillan said. “He was at that time the director of Department of Health Services and he was giving me a good deal on the source code that we’ll need to run our Web-based application process.”

Arizona spent more than $800,000 for the source code, Gillan said.

“They developed their system and he’s giving the tools to us for free,” Gillan said. “So that’s a pretty good price.”

Humble and Gillan are also of the same mindset regarding medical marijuana policies for their jurisdictions, Gillan said. Both health officials agree on keeping the process as simple as possible.

“They’re still supporting us. We’ll be sending three people next month early to get actual hands-on with the regulatory aspect and also the information technology part of it,” Gillan said.

Stephanie Flores, chief of staff for Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes, also said Guam’s legislation is very similar to the Arizona legislation that legalized medical marijuana.

“When you look at the Arizona law and you look at Guam law, they’re very, very similar,” Flores said.

Muña-Barnes co-authored the bill that allows medical marijuana on Guam, which was passed in a voter referendum in November 2014.

Good starting point

Flores said considering that the law was similar to that of Arizona’s, using Arizona’s rules and regulations as a guideline for Guam’s rules and regulations makes for a good starting point.

Local officials have looked at other states’ medical marijuana policies, Gillan said. Humble, however, was the first one to step up and offer support to Guam.

Gillan announced at Saturday’s forum that the first draft of regulations was completed and sent to the medical advisory board for review.

The draft is 133 pages, but Gillan said there is more work to be done. The drafts are based on Arizona regulations but revised to make sense for Guam.

Gillan said on Saturday that a potential $90 million of revenue could come out of medical marijuana for Guam. That figure could change and is dependent on how many patients are eligible and how much the marijuana will cost patients.

Gillan said he would like to get the cost as low as possible for patients.

The forum is available for viewing in its entirety on YouTube. It was hosted by the University of Guam’s administrative law class, under the master of public administration graduate program.

Gillan and Flores were part of a six-person panel. The two were joined by Andrew Andrus, executive director of the Employers Council; Fred Bordallo, chief of the Guam Police Department; Matthew Sablan, deputy director for the Department of Agriculture; and Dr. Laura Post, psychiatrist on the medical marijuana advisory board.

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Tuesday, 21 Jul 2015 03:00am
BY ROBERT Q. TUPAZ | VARIETY NEWS STAFF
Local herbal mixture used by GFD employee contained cannabis

A MEMBER of the Guam Fire Department civilian pool was terminated after cannabis was found in his system as a result of a drug test. The 28-year-old veteran heavy equipment operator attributed the finding to his use of the popular herbal mixture of Chamorro medicine called “amot” and appealed his termination before the Civil Service Commission. And he succeeded with a unanimous 6-0 decision.

The Guam Fire Department said it has a zero-tolerance policy for drug use by its employees and terminated Rudolph Rivera on Dec. 19, 2013 after he tested positive for cannabis use. However, in a unanimous decision and judgment issued last Thursday by the Civil Service Commission, GFD was informed otherwise.

In its discussion, the CSC board clarified it was in no way creating a “Chamorro amot defense” – rather, it wanted to send notice that “employees should take care with the ingredients of their Chamorro amot, prepared by others or themselves.”

Moreover, the commissioners found limited evidence to justify Rivera’s termination other than the drug test conclusion. The commission cited Section 28 of the Department of Administration Drug-Free Workplace Program Operating Procedures which includes a rehabilitation and counseling program for the first instance an employee tests positive for illegal drug use.

The CSC noted that the drug-free workplace policy was issued by DOA six weeks before Rivera’s termination. They also faulted GFD with failure to prove that the department operated on a zero-tolerance drug use policy.

Praised

In fact, the CSC took notice that now-retired Chief John Wusstig, who terminated Rivera in 2013, praised the heavy equipment operator during the hearing in April.

Wusstig, in CSC documents, stated “it was with regret that he dismissed the employee, but only did so because he thought that he had no other choice available.”

Wusstig also could not provide the CSC with proof of an executive order, a general order by GFD, nor regulations or laws stating that GFD operated with a zero tolerance for drug use.

In his defense, Rivera told the CSC he theorized that his godson, from whom he receives the amot, must have included a cannabis derivative with the mixture of the Chamorro amot medicine he consumed.

“We can surmise that if further evidence or law were presented, it might have bolstered management’s case, but it is not our role to surmise in favor of management. The burden is upon management to make their case.”

The commission was split, though, on the form of discipline that should be included, but subsequently ruled, “With no majority in favor of other discipline, the adverse action for dismissal is simply voided.”

Rivera is entitled to back pay from December 2013 through his reinstatement, inclusive of annual and sick leave. He is also entitled to his retirement contribution by the government and attorney fees. Based on the GFD 2013 staffing pattern, the monetary amount included with Rivera’s back pay is expected to exceed $65,000 in base pay before the government of Guam’s matching contribution and attorneys' fees and any raises are included.

Drug-free workplace

Executive Order No. 95-29 directed DOA to establish a drug-free workplace for the government of Guam. Per the order, it is “unlawful to manufacture, distribute, dispense, possess or use a controlled substance in the workplace.” The order states: “Violation of this policy will not be tolerated. This policy applies to all government of Guam employees in the non-autonomous agencies and departments, regardless of type of appointment, and all persons providing contractual services with the government of Guam, and applicants tentatively selected for employment.”

As well, P.L. 31-28, authored by former Sen. Adolph Palacios, created a zero-tolerance provision specifically for officers of the law.

CSC stated that the fire department did not present either the executive order or the law during its presentation.

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 Medical marijuana proponents question high costs
Thursday, 30 Jul 2015 03:00am
BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF 

SOME prospective patients, growers and dispensary agents at yesterday’s public hearing on the draft medical marijuana regulations criticized the cost and phrasing in the draft regulations as they might be obstacles for them to participate as patients or business owners.

“We have to think of our patients first. Patient before dollars,” said Ernie Wusstig, a local farmer. Wusstig testified at the first public hearing regarding the draft medical marijuana rules held yesterday morning at the Guam Legislature’s public hearing room in Hagåtña.

“It’s about them, it’s not about us making money,” Wusstig said. “It was even mentioned that it was $500 an ounce. If I was sick and I need $500 to go buy my first medication, I’d probably die. I’d die of stroke before taking marijuana.”

Wusstig suggested that patients be allowed to cultivate marijuana themselves, without having to go to a dispensary.

The draft rules propose a $150 fee for qualified patients to get a registry identification card, except those that qualify for a 50 percent discount. A designated caregivers’ registry identification card is suggested at $200, while the suggested price for dispensaries, agents and cultivation sites registry identification cards are $500 each.

The proposed cost for dispensary registration certificates and a cultivation site registration certificate is $35,000 for new registrations and $35,000 to renew, according to the draft regulations. If a dispensary or cultivation site changes location, that is another proposed $35,000 to do so.

Cost

Inarajan resident Walter Stiernagle said he agrees with the $35,000 fee, but questioned the cost to build an indoor growing facility. “I was just hoping if you could bend the rules somehow for us farmers. We can’t afford to build a half million dollar warehouse and all that stuff,” Stiernagle said. “I’m just trying to break even.” 

The draft regulations also propose that cultivation sites be in an enclosed area, which must be an outdoor space surrounded by solid, 10-foot walls made of metal, concrete or stone that prevents viewing marijuana plants and a solid 1-inch-thick metal gate.

Stiernagle said he’d like to register to be either a licensed grower or caregiver.

Prospective grower and dispensary agent, Andrea Pellacani, of Guam Grassroots, testified that the draft rules and regulations did not indicate if a grower could also be licensed as a dispensary. “There’s no option for vertical licensing. There’s language in there that states that if I provide more than one application, I cannot do it in the same village,” Pellacani said. “You have everything lumped together. There’s not a separate distinction for dispensaries or cultivators or processors or labs.”

Pellacani said based on her reading of the draft regulations now, she would have to have separate facilities in separate villages which would double her costs and interfere with her business model.

Tom Nadeau, chief environmental health officer for the Department of Public Health and Social Services, said the prices suggested in the draft are open to change. Nadeau said proposed costs in the draft were based on the ability of the government to run the program.

“In our preliminary assessment there needs to have dedicated personnel to run the program. It is our plan, as proposed, to run the program through a web-based program,” he said “We’re trying to make this efficient and fast as possible. ... Everything is done primarily through the web, through the Internet, if you will. And that, of course, will require the necessary infrastructure and that will cost and some of the money to make that happen will come from this.”

Yet to be finalized

Nadeau said the cost to run the entire program has yet to be finalized and it depends on how much the web-based infrastructure will cost and how many medical marijuana patients are on Guam.

August Fest, another resident who testified yesterday, said the cost as suggested in the draft was “government extortion.”

Fest suggested that there be less regulation. He pointed out that on top of the $35,000 fee, cultivation sites and dispensaries are required to have a vault built into the facility, a 10-foot wall and security cameras.

“You shouldn’t have it any more restrictive than any pharmacy. We’re talking about one product here,” Fest said.

There will be another public hearing today for residents who wish to submit oral testimony or written testimony. The hearing will be at the public hearing room at the Guam Legislature building from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

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