The Medical Cannabis Regulation Commission on Friday voted unanimously to petition Guam lawmakers to revise their spending plan to include funding for implementation of the long-stalled medicinal marijuana program.
In its 2020 budget request, the Department of Public Health and Social Services asked for $750,000 from the Healthy Futures Fund to fund the program.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero included that amount in her 2020 spending plan, Bill 75-35, which was submitted on April 9.
However, the appropriation was left out of the Legislature’s budget proposal, Bill 186-35, which was introduced on July 29. It left DPHSS with no funds to get the program off the ground.
“This is the people’s mandate,” Andrea Pellacani said at Friday’s meeting, referring to the referendum approving the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. She is the managing partner of Grassroots Guam and a nonvoting member of the commission.
Pellacani told fellow commissioners that she made that point to legislative finance committee chairman Sen. Joe San Agustin. He responded in an email writing “There is no mandate to fund medical cannabis programs with the Healthy Futures Fund.”
The senator advised Pellacani that licensing fees were intended to fund the implementation of the medicinal cannabis program.
San Agustin went on to say, “Unfortunately, there is only so much money to go around and we wanted to ensure GMH and Public Health, Guam Behavioral Health & Wellness were funded as much as possible first.”
Public Law 32-134, known as the Joaquin “KC” Concepcion II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013, authorized a referendum to allow Guam voters to decide whether the use of marijuana for medical purposes should become legal. In November 2014, voters overwhelmingly approved.
Implementation has long been stalled because of the absence of rules and regulations, lack of a testing laboratory to ensure product safety and no money.
The Leon Guerrero administration has recently revived the effort to implement the law by appointing a full slate of commissioners and approving funding to finally get it off the ground.
Pellacani said, “Twenty thousand people voted for it, and I don’t know that the lack of money is going to fly anymore.”
Commission member Aline Yamashita suggested Pellacani draft a message to lawmakers urging inclusion of the funding requested in the 2020 budget, and the commission unanimously agreed.
DPHSS Director Linda DeNorcey, who is the commission chair, said, “I’m going to keep moving forward” with implementation.
DeNorcey said it will be hard without funds to purchase the software required by law to track medical marijuana from seed to sale and to pay for other regulatory requirements.
However, a lot of progress has been made, said DeNorcey.
All of the rules and regulations to govern the administration of the program have been adopted. The types of medical cannabis businesses have been approved. The various cultivator, patient and caregiver licenses and IDs have been set. And license fees for each have been approved.
Commission member Roy Adonay said 36 island physicians have agreed to serve as consultants and certify patients are suffering from one of the conditions that qualifies for medical marijuana use. Only 12 doctors have refused.
Waiting in the wings are two interested parties willing to build the required testing lab, said Chelsa Muna-Brecht, Department of Agriculture director and commission member.
They need only a timeline for the first harvest of locally grown marijuana to be tested before taking the plunge.
DeNorcey said anyone who wants to be a cultivator, operate a dispensary for medical marijuana, or become a manufacturer of medical marijuana products can apply for a medical cannabis license. The forms are available online at the DPHSS website.
While some people have picked up applications, DeNorcey said no one has turned in an application yet.
The Medical Cannabis Regulation Commission is not to be confused with the Cannabis Control Board, which is a separate body working on the rules and regulations for implementation of Public Law 35-5, the recreational marijuana law.