Doctors wary of prescribing marijuana

MEDICINAL: The listing of marijuana as a Schedule I drug under federal law has caused doctors to hesitate writing prescriptions for medicinal use. McClatchy Tribune photo

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero told reporters Wednesday that she remains a supporter of legalizing recreational marijuana use, despite a local attorney’s argument that it would be struck down by the courts because it conflicts with federal law.

If someone wants to challenge it in court, she said, “then we have to route it through the courts and get a decision.”

However, the governor believes that in the long run, the removal of marijuana from the federal list of illegal drugs is the key to resolving current conflicts over the legality of medicinal and recreational use.

The governor was reacting to comments made by Howard Trapp, a prominent Guam attorney, who maintains that any bill passed by the Guam Legislature to legalize marijuana for recreational use would be an automatic violation of the Organic Act of Guam.

The Organic Act is a federal law that gave the Guam Legislature the authority to enact legislation for the island, so long as the measure does not conflict with federal law.

The federal government still classifies marijuana as an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act. It’s in the same Schedule I category as cocaine and heroin. Its cultivation, sale and use are in violation of federal law.

However, the governor has said that if Sen. Clynt Ridgell’s bill proposing recreational use of the drug is passed, she will sign it.

Trapp argued, “The 50 states are sovereign, and they can do as they please,” but the Guam Legislature is subject directly to the U.S. Congress and cannot. Trapp thinks any bill legalizing recreational use of cannabis, if challenged, would be “shot ... down in an instant” by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The governor said she’s not familiar with all the legal arguments. “But I’d like to look at that,” she said.

Leon Guerrero expects that in the long run it will become a moot issue because she believes the federal government will eventually remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs down to a Schedule V controlled substance.

Schedule V substances are the lowest level of classification. They have a currently accepted medical use, low potential for abuse, contain limited quantities of narcotics and physicians can write prescriptions for Schedule V drugs.

Because marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, banks won’t accept proceeds from the sale of medicinal marijuana and physicians won’t prescribe it, the governor said.