Guam: Survey Shows That Public More Wary of Legalized Cannabis Than The Politicians

15 February 2017

The Guam Post writes,

A new poll conducted by students at Simon Sanchez High School gives perspective on some residents’ view of recreational marijuana ahead of a public hearing for a bill that would legalize the substance on Guam. The poll, facilitated by SSHS teacher Andri Baynum, found that just 40 percent of residents 21 and over approve of legalizing recreational marijuana, with 30 percent of those objecting to it stating that legalization would “send a bad message.”

Another 21 percent said they believed there needed to be more public education on the issue, while 23 percent said they believed the substance would be addictive. About 21 percent said they thought legalizing recreational marijuana would increase crime while 7 percent said they objected for religious reasons.

Residents also increased in their objections to legalized recreational marijuana as they got older, with about 42 percent in the 21-to-35 age bracket stating they disapproved of the measure. Seventy-one percent of those 56 and older objected to the proposal.

Marijuana use starts young, according to the 2014 Guam Epidemiological Community Profile.

“Almost 56 percent of current users reported first using marijuana between the ages of 13 to 17 years,” the report stated.

Women polled by SSHS students also mostly objected to recreational use being legalized, with around 66 percent against it – a statistic that is somewhat correlated by the Epi Profile, which found that men were more likely to have used marijuana in their lifetime.

Perceived risk in decline

However, while the SSHS poll paints a less-than-ideal picture for advocates of marijuana legalization, the Epi Profile also states that perceived risk from marijuana use has been declining since 2011. According to the report, about 10.5 percent in 2011 viewed marijuana use as having no risk, while about 17.3 percent in 2013 believed there was no risk. Regardless, the majority of those surveyed for the Epi Profile report – about 44 percent – believed there was great risk with marijuana use.

Marijuana for medical purposes had already received approval from Guam voters through a referendum in 2014 that passed the local medical marijuana law. The recreational marijuana legislation – called the Cannabis Control Act – was introduced by the governor earlier this year, reportedly as a means of simplifying bureaucratic oversight that resulted from the medical program’s passage and subsequent amendment.

Speaker Benjamin Cruz, who has supported medical marijuana, has also thrown his support behind recreational marijuana, according to his staff.

Community awareness ‘imperative’

Meanwhile, organizations such as Grassroots Guam are calling on advocates to lend their voice to the recreational marijuana issue and dispel assumptions behind the substance’s use.

“It is imperative that our community understand that cannabis is a non-toxic, non-lethal, natural alternative to many prescription medicines,” said Andrea Pellacani, the managing partner behind Grassroots.

“It’s not recreational. … As citizens, we need to use the power inherent in our vote to help shape this program. It is in the best interest of our island that we ensure that the proposed law reflect our values for future generations. We must construct this new legislation with provisions that prevent access to minors, promote equal opportunity for businesses, consumer safety and responsible use.”

Pellacani plans to testify in support of the Cannabis Control Act during a public hearing on the measure today, and is calling on other advocates and supporters to do the same.

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