Public hearings at the Guam legislature building in Hagatna sometimes serve to display raw emotions of those testifying on issue raised by legislation being considered. But for the most part these are peaceable, low key events. Last week's hearing on Sen. Clynt Ridgell's bill to legalize recreational use of marijuana had no violence and no one wound up in jail, but did prompt a stern warning from the body's acting speaker.
“As Acting Speaker of the 35th Guam Legislature and on behalf of my fellow senators, we will not condone nor do we support obscene gestures, violence or criminality within the Guam Congress Building," Sen. Telena C. Nelson said in a press release. "I am working with our legal counsel and the Committee on Rules chairwoman to ensure proper form and decorum within the Guam Congress Building is upheld. If such actions are displayed in the future, individuals will be asked to leave or escorted out of the Guam Congress Building.”
Howard Hemsing protests in 2009 Photo by Bruce Lloyd
Sen. Nelson did not explain that the party behind the fuss was Howard Hemsing, a long time local activist and a familiar figure at the legislature. Hemsing, who was speaking on Ridgell's Bill 32-35, testified mostly in Chamorro, but at one point pulled out a couple of bags of what he said was pot. "Any buyers," asked Hemsing.
There were no takers and Ridgell told Hemsing to put the bags away. He then continued with his testimony. Sen. Ridgell said he saw no need for further action, since there was no disruption.
Another activist, Paul Zerzan, was another story. While testifying against the bill, he got into a loud dispute with Ridgell, had his microphone turned off and accused Ridgell of being high on pot himself.
Police have reportedly been investigating, at least as far as to Hemsing's pot play, but no word on what they might have found.