If you can beat ‘em, join ‘em.
That maxim seems to have been taken to heart by Eddie Calvo, Guam’s Republican Governor. Calvo has spent the last two years holding back voter mandated cannabis reform on Guam, even going so far as to veto a bill that would have allowed home growing by qualified patients.
But on Tuesday the Governor himself introduced a bill that would bring Colorado-style legalization to the island, saying: “I am introducing this bill, not because I personally support the recreational use of marijuana, but as a solution to the regulatory labyrinth that sprouted from the voter-mandated medical marijuana program.”
The activists who have been fighting the governor’s office for the last two years point out that it was his attempts to stymie the voters’ will that led to the complicated regulations in the first place, but they also agree that his flip on the issue is better late than never.
As is happening on the mainland, politicians who may be personally against cannabis reform are none the less finally accepting the will of the people, and Calvo should be applauded for taking the steps necessary to rectify this situation.
If passed, his new bill would allow anyone 21 and over to carry up to an ounce of weed and to grow up to six plants at home (the same provision he recently vetoed). A 15 percent “sin” tax would be imposed on all sales, with the first $40 million generated being used to bring Guam’s main hospital, which is currently facing bankruptcy, back into solvency.
According to Calvo, the bill also takes care not to disrupt the medical program for qualifying patients, saying “The sin tax and age limit we propose for non-medicinal cannabis use will not apply to the medicinal program.” Revenue generated through the tax would also be used to fund education and programs supporting healthy lifestyles.
How Guam’s tourism industry will be affected still remains to be seen. Smoking in public will still be illegal, with a $100 fine imposed on those who run afoul of the restriction, but Calvo has said tourism should get a much needed boost from Asian tourists interested in coming to Guam to smoke. And activists have proposed introducing legislation modeled on Denver’s recent initiative allowing smoking at some bars and cafes as a way for the island to capitalize on those new visitors.
HIGH TIMES asked Kōichi Maeda, the head of the Japan Medical Marijuana Association (JMMA), if he thinks those tourists will materialize. He responded: “Our organization has been preparing to bring patients to Guam ever since they first voted for medical marijuana, but we were worried that they would not be allowed due to not being residents. With this new law I can assure you that Japanese will come in much larger numbers.”
JMMA brought several patients to San Francisco after legalization was passed in California last November to try medical marijuana themselves. They told us that once this new law is in place, they plan to make similar trips to Guam every three months.
Maeda first visited Guam when the voters approved medical marijuana back in 2014. At that time, the JMAA started “Project Guam” in anticipation of the new laws but has been waiting for those laws to be implemented ever since. Maeda pointed out that over 900,000 Japanese tourists visit Guam each year already, and he expects that number to only increase once pot-tourism is added to the mix. Comparing that number to Guam’s population of 150,000 permanent residents makes it easy to see that even if large numbers of residents get their weed tax-free, there will still be plenty of money to spread around.
If this law passes—and with both major political parties supporting it, there is no reason to think it won’t—Asia will have a new haven for the open minded and for those still suffering under the regions strict drug laws.
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