Dr. John Ray Taitano, president of the Guam Medical Society, told the Guam Daily Post that any physician on Guam who prescribes marijuana for medicinal purposes “jeopardizes their license because federal law trumps local law.”
Guam’s medicinal marijuana law was approved by voters in a referendum during the 2014 general election. However, implementation has been stalled for a variety of reasons, including concerns in the medical community about its legality. Under federal law, marijuana still remains a Schedule I substance that is illegal to possess or distribute.
“I won’t prescribe it, as an individual physician,” Taitano said. “I will not.”
Guam’s medicinal marijuana law has gone through a number of revisions, and it’s still being refined. On Monday, in an effort to get the program up and running quickly, Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr. introduced a measure to fast-track the rules and regulations for the program.
Taitano said he has not yet had the chance to review Rodriguez’s proposed legislation, but his concerns remain.
“If indeed federal law says it’s illegal, it doesn’t matter what our Legislature passes,” Taitano said. “It’s still illegal, and that jeopardizes the medical license of any physician who prescribes it.”
Grassroots Guam managing partner Andrea Pellicani said physicians should not be concerned because “there is no prescription, it’s a recommendation.”
Pellicani cites a federal case, Conant v. Walters, which she said affirms the right of physicians to recommend medical marijuana.
Under Guam’s law, Pellicani said, local physicians would merely be “certifying” eligibility for the use of medicinal marijuana.
“A certification simply says this patient has a condition where medical cannabis may be helpful,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter what the Guam law says,” said attorney Howard Trapp. He points out that the only authority the Guam Legislature has is given to them by the federal government, via the Organic Act of Guam. The Organic Act authorizes Guam’s legislature “to pass laws that are not in conflict with the laws of the United States.”
“It’s so clear,” Trapp said. “We cannot give the green light to people to go ahead and violate a federal statute.”
It also doesn’t matter, he said, that a number of states, like California, already have medicinal marijuana laws in effect.
California and all the other states in the union are “sovereign states,” he said. They have their own constitutions and state laws and “they can go ahead and make medicinal marijuana legal, locally.” But Guam, he said, “can’t do that, because we only have only one sovereign” and that sovereign is the United States.
“It has to be legal for the government of Guam to manufacture marijuana,” Trapp said, and it’s not.