It may be six months before any medical marijuana products are made available, but this hasn't stopped some patients from registering, according to James Gillan, director for the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
Patients must pay an annual fee for a registration card, he added. Individuals were informed of this, but registered anyway, he said.
Applications for Medical Cannabis Licenses were made available for the first time yesterday at the department's offices in Mangilao. About 40 applicants appeared by yesterday afternoon and mostly asked for cultivation applications.
Gillan estimated that it may be six months before any medical marijuana products are available, however, and no sale can occur without independent lab testing to test the product at different stages. No one applied to become a testing lab within the afternoon, Gillan said.
Cost can be a major hurdle for the establishment of laboratory testing, but the legalization of recreational marijuana, as proposed by Gov. Eddie Calvo, may help boost demand to a point that a lab could make decent monetary gains.
Must be tested
"There must be a provision for testing of marijuana, medicinal or recreational," Gillan said.
"Guam will need a testing lab to ensure against mold, fungus, mites, contaminants. ... Lab testing of the finished product assures safety and also assures the buyer that what is being advertised is indeed what is being sold."
The governor's recreational marijuana bill is intended to provide funding support to the medical marijuana program through a 15 percent excise tax on recreational sales. DPHSS is required to pay back $100,000 in funding initially received from the Healthy Futures Fund to administer the program, according to Gillan.
Proceeds from a potential recreational marijuana program will first go to the medical marijuana program, as well as fund itself. Afterwards, the first $40 million will help augment funding for Guam Memorial Hospital.
A Bureau of Alternative Medicine has been established within DPHSS to oversee the medical marijuana program but there is no staff yet.
"We have been relying on volunteer staff," according to Gillan.
Some lawmakers have touted support for recreational marijuana on Guam while others have expressed caution.
A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published this year finds certain drawbacks to marijuana use. These include higher risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident if taken prior to driving and increased risk of unintentional cannabis overdose injuries to children.
While perceived risks for marijuana use is still high in Guam, it has been trending downward over the years. According to the latest epidemiological profile from the Bureau of Behavioral Health and Wellness, about 17 percent of adults thought there was no risk associated with marijuana use compared to 10 percent in 2011.
Marijuana use remains high among youth, with more than half of high school students having tried the substance in 2013.