'Second chances': Governor eyes pardons for past petty marijuana crimes

MARIJUANA: A marijuana plant is seen in this file photo. Guam, along with more than a dozen states and territories, has legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero intends to pardon individuals who were convicted of petty crimes or misdemeanors related to marijuana before it was legalized. Post file photo

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero on Wednesday announced plans to pardon individuals who were convicted of petty crimes or misdemeanors related to marijuana when it was still an illegal substance on Guam.

Guam legalized marijuana in 2019. It's now legal to use and possess up to an ounce of marijuana by people at least 21 years old.

"I am seriously looking and discussing with key stakeholders, pardoning those individuals who have been convicted of misdemeanors or single crimes related to marijuana," the governor said in a Wednesday morning video message, alongside Sen. Clynt Ridgell, whose efforts rolled up the bill that eventually legalized cannabis on Guam.

The governor said several individuals "made the mistake" while marijuana was still illegal, and are now having challenges getting back to work.

"And what I would like to do because we are a compassionate administration, and we believe in second chances, and we believe in standing people up in terms of areas that they may have maybe made a bit of a mistake," she added.

Ridgell, in applauding the governor for making the move, said it's time to "make right" what he believes has been "a wrong in the legal realm for many years."

"I think it was unjustified to make this substance illegal in the first place so I think it’s only right to restore justice, so to speak, and enable those who made those mistakes before to be able to seek a new life where they don't have to worry about applying for a job and having this on their record," Ridgell said.

Across the nation, states that legalized marijuana have also reduced convictions, or sealed or expunged convictions for past marijuana crimes.

These generally mean removing convictions from public databases.

The governor said she will be issuing an executive order.

"I think it is a very compassionate move for our people given the fact that marijuana is now a legal substance and of course there would be rules and regulations. This is going to be able to also guide the industry and provide the regulations needed to make sure it's all in order," she said.

Meanwhile, Ridgell's legislative committee will be holding a May 12 public hearing on the Cannabis Control Board-developed cannabis industry rules and regulations.

"Once they are finalized, we’ll be ready to standing up this industry for the island of Guam, something I think will be really good to help stimulate our economy, help generate new revenues, create new jobs and new business opportunities," the senator said.

The governor, for her part, said her administration has always been supportive of diversifying the mainly tourism-based economy. The COVID-19 pandemic upended Guam's visitor industry, leaving some 30,000 residents without a job temporarily or permanently during the first surges.

This story will be updated.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert


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