Saturday, July 12, 2008


MCGRUFF’S MARAUDERS: In one of the most predictable screw-ups in a screwed-up system the Department of Public Safety (DPS) apparently sent the names, addresses and medical information for all 4200 some-odd medical marijuana patients in the state to a reporter at the Hawai`i Tribune Herald (HTH) last month.

The unfathomable breach of privacy and safety- including apparently the location of their plants- was barely mentioned, buried deep inside a June 27 story about medical use of marijuana on the big Island in the HTH with just a mention that the information was in reporter Peter Sur’s hands.

Though apparently calls immediately flooded both HH and DPS offices within minutes of publication the story was evidently covered up until yesterday when HTH detailed the story, which was picked up by the Honolulu Advertiser today.

In the intervening period Governor Lingle vetoed a measure that would form a task force to look into methodology for the State growing and distributing the medication to patients and also look into whether the DPS is the right place to administrate the program.

None of the other 12 states that allow medical marijuana regulate the prescriptions through a law enforcement entity preferring to put administration where people almost universally agree it belongs- in their respective departments of health or similar entities that have experience in administering medical information and privacy laws.

What the prison system was doing keeping medical records in the first place was an issue brought up often since the legislature passed the law. At the time of enactment, advocates were assured by lawmakers that the statute would be changed in future legislative sessions but every year bills to shift responsibility of the Department of Health have died.

People around the state are apparently frantic and wonder who else now might have their records or whether there were other such breaches unreported by the troubled DPS, which has been constantly under fire for many years for it’s own lawlessness and a whole slew of issues.

A DPW spokesperson sent a letter informing the patients of the breach, saying that supposedly “steps are also being taken internally within my department so that this does not happen again”. But it did not address any specifics or say whether other such breaches have occurred or are occurring daily with already distributed lists.

One of the worst provisions of the Hawaii law- the only one in the country not passed by citizen initiative- is the sharing of information by DPS with local police and “other law enforcement agencies”, even apparently federal bureaus such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) who are known to arrest patients after the Supreme Court allowed them to do so a few years back.

According to the HTH article

The DPS Web site has a list of frequently asked questions for patients, including the question of whether a patient's confidentiality is protected.

"Yes," it says. "However, upon an inquiry by a law enforcement agency, the Department of Public Safety will verify whether a particular qualifying patient has registered with the Department and may provide reasonable access to the registry information for official law enforcement purposes."

While they try to make it sound as if they will only identify individual patients upon a request by law informant agencies for information on a specific patient named by the agency the reality is that the last part of that sentence describes the practice that has become standard- the same list that was released to HTH sits in files at every police department in the state and possibly the DEA itself

Reform of this outrageous lack of medical privacy has unfathomably been blocked by a slew of law enforcement agencies across the state who are apparently gung-ho for the money and resources the feds, states and counties provide to take medicine away from sick people.

Although we have not seen the actual lists, one source close to Kaua`i Police Department told us that the list are available to all officers and even potentially to non- sworn officers at KPD.

According to the article the lists contain the exact locations of the plants patients are allowed to grow giving thieves a road map to steal medicinal “pakalolo” as it’s know locally. If bought and sold, the herb reportedly goes for $400-500 an ounce on Kaua`i, about twice the price of California which has medical marijuana “stores” called co-ops.

More than a dozen of medical marijuana patients report to us that they do not even try to grow their own due to fears that they will be targeted by thieves and others still have had such experiences with thievery- including the theft of other items by thieves taking their plants- and now are unable to obtain the medicine needed for treatment of severe and debilitating diseases.

Others still report that they won’t even try to get their prescriptions because of the provisions for distributing the lists to federal agencies, especially many who live in federally-funded public housing or receive federal housing vouchers.

They fear that despite the fact that they receive the assistance due to their horribly debilitating conditions and diseases there is a “zero-tolerance” policy under federal law which would throw them out in the street if they admitted to using medical marijuana.

The bill vetoed by Lingle during the intervening time between the HTH security lapse and the statewide publicizing of the incident- which the House refused to override after the Senate did- would have set up a task force to do what other states like New Mexico and California have successfully done in setting up a system to grow and distributed the medicine to patients.

The bill was a compromise after being introduced in a form that would have systematized and permitted a Maui cooperative to grow and supply the marijuana to patients


Correction: The correct location for Derrick DePledge's and Peter Boylan's "Notebook" blog is . We embedded the wrong link yesterday. We apologies for any inconvenience. Yesterday’s post has been corrected.

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