Now that it is cleared to move forward, the commercial cannabis industry holds great promise for positive economic and social outcomes in Guam. Marijuana use is already ubiquitous among residents here, just as it is on the continental United States and in countries whose citizens make up part of our visitor industry.
The initial competition will no doubt be fierce among those who want to enter the ground floor of the legalized cannabis opportunity. Over time, free market forces will determine who succeeds and who fails. As the industry matures, valuable insights will be gleaned from both global market trends and local consumer tastes. The cannabis industry can be very good for Guam.
That’s the good news.
Where things could go wrong is with the government of Guam. He has an abysmal record of law enforcement and raising revenue in highly taxed businesses such as tobacco, alcohol, and even nonprofit bingo.
Each is supposed to be monitored and regulated and each should provide annual financial gains. Unfortunately, it is not the case. The government is underperforming and the financial benefits do not fully accrue to dedicated uses such as the Healthy Futures Fund, Village Mayors or a Recreation and Sports Fund.
We must not tolerate our government’s poor performance on cannabis. If that happens, it will be a buzzkill for this promising new industry.
Develop a strategy for success
It is already late, but not yet too late to identify the resources that will be needed. Then, these resources must be fully funded and strategically deployed in sufficient numbers to ensure effective implementation and long-term successful regulation and enforcement of cannabis laws.
In addition to agencies responsible for overseeing manufacturing, quality control, health and safety considerations, and revenue collection, this deployment of resources is expected to include the Guam Police Department and Customs and Quarantine Agency. from Guam.
It is well documented that unless the trade in illegally grown and sold marijuana is suppressed, the legal cannabis trade and its promise of transformation will never fully materialize. Such a failure could even threaten its very existence.
This whole-of-government approach is crucial if Guam is to maximize the benefits expected from legalized cannabis.
In the meantime, while all eyes are on the economic potential of the industry, let’s not forget that legalizing cannabis can also be an opportunity for positive social change.
For generations, pot has been blamed for just about every ill in society and labeled as a gateway to serious addictions, from traditional opioids to modern plagues such as 100% lab-cooked methamphetamine.
This undeserved rap about marijuana is what has helped keep it illegal for so long.
Now that its legality as a regulated product for adult use is clearly established in Guam, there is a unique opportunity to raise awareness about drug abuse and addiction more generally.
We have a real reset moment to take real action and eliminate the rightfully banned list of drugs that drain public resources and pose a serious threat to the health of our people and our economy. Methamphetamine and heroin are clearly at the top of the list.
There is also an opportunity to remove long-standing and unnecessary barriers to treatment for all forms of addiction in Guam, so that everyone who wants help can get help. This includes not only illegal drugs, but also and especially alcohol.
We should expect entrepreneurs who risk their own capital to do their part to make cannabis legalization a success. Whether the Guam government is doing its part remains to be seen.
Remedios Malig is a resident of Dededo.