Before passing Bill 32-35, senators debate on the session floor

Senator Telena Nelson (PNC file photo)

Before the legislature passed controversial Bill 32-35 or the Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019, the controversial legislation sparked a debate on the session floor.

Vice Speaker Telena Nelson persistently referred back to the town hall meeting scheduled at 6 p.m. The meeting was organized by a concerned Tamuning resident to open community discussion on recreational marijuana.

During session, Nelson raised a “point of order” in the proceedings. She said it appears bills are being moved or discussions are being delayed so that the body can vote on Bill 32-35 to avoid the town hall meeting.

Nelson had a brief back and forth with Speaker Tina Muna Barnes, who insisted that the Vice Speaker state the violation that prompted her call for point-of-order.

“The violation is that we are pushing other senators about the opportunity to hear what the community has to say. That is the violation, we are closing out the community by forcing something down our throats and down their throats,” Nelson said.

Sen. Jose ‘Pedo’ Terlaje made a motion to recess until 5 p.m. Sen. Therese Terlaje amended the motion and proposed to postpone voting until 9 a.m. Thurs.

Senators agreed to the first motion to recess until 5 p.m., which is just an hour away from the town hall meeting.

Meanwhile, Eugene Santos, who had planned the town hall meeting, commented on what went down at the legislature.

Addressing the Vice Speaker, Santos said “I appreciate your ability to stand firm on letting the voices of the people be heard. I will notify the moderator of the excused absences of the senators who did not vote to recess till 5 p.m. today and acknowledge the fact that the senators voting to reconvene session at 5 p.m., was an attempt to delay their appearance at the public hearing.”

However, ample opportunity was provided to the community to comment on the bill, according to Sen. Clynt Ridgell, the bill’s author, during an interview on Newstalk K57’s Morning’s with Patti.

“We followed the process, to the tee. You know we held a public hearing. We gave proper notice, in advance, before the public hearing,” Ridgell said.

“While some opponents have come out at the eleventh hour with loud voices in seemingly orchestrated opposition, we believe a silent majority supports Bill 32,” he said.

On Fri, Mar. 22, an online petition urging lawmakers to pass the bill had roughly 20 signatures. By the end of the day, the petition had more than tripled, with around 3,255 signatories supporting the measure. A petition opposing the bill has 848 signatures, according to Ridgell.