Guam Ballot Measure on Medical Pot Takes Flight | Courthouse News Service
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Guam Ballot Measure on Medical Pot Takes Flight

(CN) - Guamanians may vote to legalize medical marijuana next month, after the Supreme Court of Guam upheld a Legislature-submitted ballot measure on the issue.

The 15-member 32nd Guam Legislature asked the high court to find its measure valid after the Guam Election Commission refused to put the question on the Nov. 15, 2014, ballot. The election commission contended that the measure - Public Law 32-134 - violated the Organic Act and Guam law.

The bill "presents a delegation of legislative law making authority not permitted by Guam law, and not authorized as a referendum measure," the election commission said. It contended that voters alone hold the rights to initiative and referendum through the Organic Act - the law that annexed Guam as a U.S. territory, establishes how its government is structured and provides U.S. citizenship.

The Guam Supreme Court ruled Friday that the measure is a legislative submission that complies with both the Organic Act and Guam law.

"There is no indication in the text of legislative history of the Organic Act that [the U.S.] Congress granted the people of Guam the rights of initiative and referendum, but not the right to vote on measures referred by the legislature," the 22-page opinion says.

Sidestepping the question of whether the election commission is authorized to keep the measure off the ballot, the court said questions that satisfy the first jurisdictional requirement must involve statutory interpretation, or questions of powers and duties of the legislature or the governor.

Here, "the question is not truly one of statutory interpretation, but is a legal question that primarily involves a review of case law," Chief Justice Robert Torres wrote for the three-member court. "Therefore, we will not exercise jurisdiction to address in a declaratory judgment action whether the Guam Election Commission has the authority to refuse to place a measure on the ballot because [it] views the measure to violate Guam law."

The ruling puts Guam voters one step closer to being able to answer the question posed by Public Law 32-134: "Shall the Joaquin Conception II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013 that provides for the medical use of cannabis be allowed?"

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