Two public hearings and a public markup have been scheduled tentatively for the medical cannabis program's draft rules and regulations. Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, Jr. hopes his committee can report out a final draft for the legislature's approval before Christmas.
 
"What comes of this will be a newly-regulated industry, so I'm hoping for the best minds on all sides of this issue to participate in these hearings and markup," Sen. Rodriguez said. "I'm inviting everyone to the table."
 
In anticipation of Rules Committee referral to the senator's committee, Rodriguez has scheduled the following on the legislative calendar:
 
First public hearing
Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 5:30 p.m. in the Guam Congress Building
The committee will receive testimony for the first time on the draft rules and regulations. Comments from this hearing will form the foundation for discussions during the public markup.
 
Public markup meeting
To be scheduled between the two public hearings; to be announced.
The committee will facilitate debate on the draft rules and regulations, starting with the sections of the draft most contested during the first public hearing. The result of this discussion and debate will be changes, or the markup, of the draft, and its transformation into a final draft. This markup will be publicly distributed in time for all interested to go over and comment during the second public hearing.
 
Second public hearing
Thursday, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. in the Guam Congress Building
This is when the final draft of the rules and regulations will be publicly heard, in case substantial changes were made to the first draft. The committee likely will report the bill with the marked up and final draft rules and regulations to the full Legislature for consideration.
 
You may find the draft rules and regulations attached to Bill No. 210-34 on the Legislature's website, www.guamlegislature.com, or by clicking the following link: Medical cannabis draft rules & regulations.
 
 
Sen. Dennis Rodriguez wants to inform doctors that federal law protects their professional right to write their patients certifications that say cannabis can be a better alternative for the therapy they require. Before doing this, he is asking for a legal opinion from the Center for Responsible Cannabis Regulation about Conant v. Walters and what this circuit court ruling means for Guam doctors.
 
Conant v. Walters is a California case eventually ruled on by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Guam falls under this circuit) that asserts that doctors who write certifications to patients seeking legal medical use of cannabis cannot be charged or even investigated by the federal government without there being evidence that a doctor is involved with illicit drug activity.
 
Guam doctors are not issuing certifications to patients who qualify for access to cannabis, even though the law currently allows for doctors to issue these certifications now. Some doctors have said that although local law grants them immunity from adverse action, federal law still would suggest that doctors who issue certifications would be guilty of drug crimes and conspiracy.
 
"These certifications are at the heart of this law that our people overwhelmingly approved," Sen. Rodriguez said. "Someone needs to clarify what the law really says for doctors, because patients are waiting and some are suffering. Doctors shouldn't be living in a climate of fear and conducting their practices afraid to give the best advice possible to their patients."
 
The senator's letter follow for easy reference.
 
-30-
 
Ms. Chloe Grossman 
Deputy Director Council on Responsible Cannabis Regulation 
Via email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
 
Dear Deputy Director Grossman: 
 
Håfa Adai! I hope to get your legal opinion on the ability of locally-licensed doctors to issue certifications (within the context of the medical cannabis law) without fear of adverse action by the federal government. 
 
Patients with painful and debilitating diseases are waiting for their doctors to provide a certification giving the opinion that such patient can benefit from cannabis use. This certification is precisely what a patient needs in order to possess certain amounts of cannabis at a given time without fear of losing their freedom. The problem is that no authority within the government of Guam has informed local doctors whether they can begin issuing such certifications. 
 
It is clear by the writing of the statute that doctors may write these certifications to their patients. The law also clearly provides immunity to doctors from prosecution for recommending or approving medical cannabis (§122504(f) 10GCA Article 25 of Part 2, Chapter 12 of Division 1). While doctors on Guam may not dispute that local statute protects their medical license from adverse action at the hands of any local authority, including the Guam Board of Medical Examiners, which issues licenses, there is an overriding concern. That is, since cannabis still is scheduled as an illegal narcotic by the federal government, does the local law’s immunity also extend insofar as to protect doctors from losing their practice in the event of a federal investigation into such doctor’s practice of issuing written certifications.
 
 In reading case law on this very matter, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in its 2002 decision in Conant v. Walter ruled that the first test in determining whether the federal government should leave doctors alone is if they wrote certifications in a jurisdiction that does so provide local immunity to them. The Guam law does just that. Conant v. Walters then goes on to state that both the plaintiffs and the government defendants agreed that federal law is clear that doctors would be guilty of conspiracy to distribute narcotics if they - with intention - helped a patient to break the law. That is, to procure a scheduled narcotic. A doctor who, therefore, prescribes cannabis and a pharmacy that dispenses such a prescription, would no doubt be guilty of such crimes under federal law. However, the ruling makes it abundantly clear that the mere opinion a doctor gives on a piece of paper written to his patient that his patient might be better served with cannabis  cannot be held against the doctor. The reasoning is two fold. 
 
First, that doctor’s opinion does not directly and automatically lead to a patient procuring medical cannabis under the local statute. A certification, unlike a prescription, does not dictate medical necessity and very well and likely will be ignored by patients who do not want to use cannabis as a replacement or enhancement to other therapy. 
 
There is no way, unless it is specifically written by the doctor that the patient should go immediately to a dispensary and purchase cannabis under the local law, that the doctor directly helped the patient to receive a scheduled narcotic. He did not conspire with the patient. There was no criminal intent. Secondly, and what dominates the ruling and its reasoning, is that a doctor’s opinion to his patient is part of the most protected of free speech rights - that of professional free speech. It should be reprehensible to us as citizens to allow the government to create a chilling effect among doctors, whereby fear of the loss of liberty or property overtakes such as sacred institution as the free speech right of a doctor to dispense sound and private medical advice to his patient.
 
 I fear such a chilling effect has taken hold among the medical community already. But it’s not too late to reverse this fear. I’m hoping you can give me the legal guidance I need in order to stand on solid legal footing and inform doctors of their rights and protections under the local statute and in the federal government by way of case law. Please look into this matter and respond soonest. Thank you very much for your assistance. Please contact me at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  should you have any questions or need for more information. Si Yu’os Ma’åse’! Dennis G. Rodriguez, Jr.
 
 
 

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Toduguam.com is the official website of Senator Dennis G. Rodriguez, Jr., member
I Mina’trentai Dos Na Liheslaturan Guåhan
, 33rd Guam Legislature.

CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, HOMELAND SECURITY, AND SENIOR CITIZENS
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