16 January 2017
Howard G. Trapp: Legalization of marijuana is expressly prohibited by the Organic Act
On Guam, the name Howard Trapp is synonymous with law, and as an attorney known for his understanding and skillful use of the Organic Act in execution of his legal practice, Trapp has earned the respect of many people and is often hired to appeal decisions from the Superior Court of Guam and the District Court of Guam.
Trapp is someone I call upon for insight into what the Organic Act says about some application of law. I recently spoke with him about passing laws on Guam to allow the medicinal or recreational use of marijuana.
California and Colorado are cited as examples Guam could follow in legalizing marijuana use. However, Guam does not have the same rights a state does to pass laws.
“Because Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States, we only have one sovereign,” Trapp said. “The sovereign is the United States.”
States on the other hand, have dual sovereignty.
“The Organic Act of Guam is our constitution,” Trapp said. Per the Organic Act, Guam laws cannot be inconsistent with the laws of the United States applicable to Guam.
“California and Colorado also have constitutions,” Trapp said. “But there is nothing in the California or Colorado constitutions that says that their laws have to be the same as, or cannot be inconsistent with the laws of the United States. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be sovereign!”
Is the passage of laws regarding medicinal marijuana or its recreational use on Guam inconsistent with the laws of the United States applicable to Guam? According to Trapp, “Its expressly prohibited by the Organic Act.”
Trapp sent me Title 21 of the United States Code §841 (a)(1) that says it is a Federal crime to knowingly or intentionally manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance; or to possesses with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance, and if a person violates the subsection they can be prosecuted, fined and sentenced.
Title 21 United States Code §846 got my attention because it says “Any person who attempts or conspires to commit any offense defined in this subchapter shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the attempt of conspiracy.” Would this include the director of Public Health, his staff and elected officials?
Therefore, if passing laws to legalize marijuana is expressly prohibited by the Organic Act now, what can be done to achieve the goals of legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana on Guam?
Trapp says, “There is one bill that could be introduced. We have laws on the books criminalizing marijuana and if you passed a bill that simply took the word ‘marijuana’ out of all our criminal laws, and did away with any penalty or anything to do with marijuana except just getting rid of a law against it – we could do that, because we don’t have to pass laws that duplicate laws of the United States. We just can’t pass any laws that are ‘inconsistent’ with laws of the United States applicable to Guam.”
Guam Organic Act – Wikipedia
Guam Organic Act – Full TextOrganic Act