Future of pot bill still hazy as protests continue

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Protesters hold up signs against Bill 32-35. (PNC photo)

Bill 32-35 or the Guam Cannabis Industry Act of 2019 now sits at the desk of the  Maga’haga, after senators passed the legislation with only one deciding vote that tipped the scale.

While session was called at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, senators were given the opportunity to engage the community at the ongoing town hall meeting during a 30 minute recess.

Only 4 senators opted to attend the meeting.

In Tamuning, Mayor Louise Rivera encouraged more town hall meetings to be convened, whether or not the bill passes. Rivera said this would ensure the community would have a better understanding of marijuana.

Should amendments be necessary, Rivera said the people would be more equipped at making an educated decision.

But now that the bill is sitting on the Governor’s desk, it appears the opposition has taken a more aggressive stance.

Eugene Santos, former longtime staffer to Speaker Mark Forbes, said “I encourage the Governor to veto this bill and send it back to the legislature.”

The march to Adelup in opposition to the bill is scheduled for Friday at noon, according to Santos.

However, pro-legalization Grassroots Guam have also extended the invitation to Adelup that same day. This time, for a peaceful protest in response to the opposition.

Santos released a statement to media that threatens the impeachment of those who rendered the 8 yes votes.

“The movement to have these senators removed from office has begun. The community of Tamuning and those in attendance at our town hall this evening has majorily agreed to flood the radio stations, the media.”

Santos said they will speak to the Governor and to the communities throughout the island regarding the lack of accountability of the senators and to remove them from office.

Bill author Sen. Clynt Ridgell, thanked his co-sponsors , supporters, and even those who voted against the measure “because they added to the deliberation and to the discussion.”

“They brought forth a lot of ideas and a lot of concerns and we hopefully addressed those in this bill,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Regine Bisco-Lee, legislative committee on rules chairperson, backs the bills author and his claims that ample time was afforded for public comment on the measure.

“I appreciate that some members of the community passionately opposed this policy and that is why the rules were followed so closely. We heard from hundreds of constituents, received dozens of emails, reviewed hours of testimony, and advocates, for and against, stood in our lobby and balcony. The rules were followed and our people were heard,” she said.

Biscoe-Lee was one of the 8 who voted in support of the measure.

A fellow lawmaker, Vice Speaker Telena Nelson considered the passing of the bill, premature. “I am committed to working with my colleagues and the community on ensuring we protect our people every step of the way.”

After the legislature passed the bill, the next step would be to get the governor’s approval.

“If she’s going to sign it into law or not, I hope she does. But I will respect her decision either way,” Ridgell said.

Although the Governor has made her support for recreational marijuana known to the public – the question remains: Will she uphold her initial stance or will she fold under the pressure of public opposition?