Friday, July 17, 2009


CANIS CANNABINOID CAPO: On January 30 this year we titled our post 2009: THE YEAR OF CANNABIS REFORM and detailed eight bills the legislature was considering that would, if enacted, end the insane way our state treats cannabis, especially our medical marijuana program.

But of course our Contadina legislature was too busy dodging votes on civil rights for gays and lesbians, secretly trying to raise campaign contribution limits and blocking pilot public financing of elections programs that they failed to get those eight great tomatoes out of that little bitty committee can.

The good news is that on Wednesday the legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto of a bill that “(e)stablishes a task force to examine issues relating to medical cannabis patients and current medical cannabis laws”- no thanks to Kaua`i Representatives Roland Sagum and Jimmy Tokioka who were among nine reps that refused to vote to override the veto.

The bad news is that it deals only medical marijuana, not our draconian and idiotic prohibitionist marijuana laws that cost us millions by incarcerating non-violent recreational pot smokers and are responsible for the violence and killing by organized crime outfits that proliferate due solely to the illegality.

More good news is that the task force- which, like the administration of our medical marijuana program is, unfortunately, administratively tied to the Department of Public Safety- provides for seats for many medical marijuana advocacy groups and individuals including:

- The Drug Policy Forum of Hawai`i which describes itself as the “ leading organization dedicated to safe, responsible, and effective drug policies” in Hawai`i. Their Drug Policy Action Group was instrumental in getting the task force law passed.

- The Honolulu Chapter of Americans for Safe Access whose web site says they are “the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research”.

- The West O`ahu Hope For A Cure Foundation, an AIDS advocacy group.

- The American Civil Liberties Union

- One medical cannabis advocate who is a patient that uses cannabis in a medically authorized or recommended manner to be appointed by the governor

- A physician who authorizes or recommends the use of medical cannabis that is nominated from a list jointly submitted by the senate president and speaker of the house of representatives to be appointed by the governor;

- A Hawaii-licensed physician who specializes in pain control and has issued a medical cannabis recommendation that is nominated from a list jointly submitted by the senate president and speaker of the house of representatives to be appointed by the governor;

-One registered caregiver to be appointed by the governor;

The five areas they will examine are also promising. They are charged to:

(1) Examine current state statutes, state administrative rules, and all county policies and procedures relating to the medical marijuana program;

(2) Examine all issues and obstacles that qualifying patients have encountered with the medical marijuana program;

(3) Examine all issue and obstacles that state and county law enforcement agencies have encountered with the medical marijuana program;

(4) Compare and contrast Hawaii's medical marijuana program with all other state medical marijuana programs; and

(5) Address other issues and perform any other function necessary as the task force deems appropriate, relating to the medical marijuana program.

They will have help on #4 with the provision that “(no) later than August 30, 2009, the legislative reference bureau shall complete and submit to the task force a report on the policies and procedures for access, distribution, security, and other relevant issues related to the medical use of cannabis for all the states that currently have a medical cannabis program”

The final report is due no less than 20 days before the 2010 legislative session.

One of the main goals of reformers, as we mentioned above, is to remove administration of the medical marijuana program from the Department of Public Safety- the department that administers the prison system- and get it into the Department of Health where programs in every other state with medical marijuana laws have their programs.

Right now our system is what local attorney Daniel Hempey called an unconstitutional violation of the medical privacy rights of patients while appearing yesterday on Joan Conrow’s and Jimmy Trujillo’s KKCR-FM radio program on cannabis reform.

The current set up is that local law enforcement maintain lists of people who qualify rather than having the Department of Health maintain the list and having police check with them if need be. That led to the actual release of the list to the press last year as we detailed last July.

Another must is a system for growing, procuring and distributing marijuana to patients. Other states such as California have actual stores where qualified patients can obtain their medicine.

Although in the past the federal government has harassed the distribution centers the new administration has eliminated those raids as part of ending the “war on drugs”. That makes moot one of the prime arguments used by local law enforcement in opposing such a distribution system.

Another thing people here on Kaua`i at least can do is work to defeat both Tokioka and Sagum in the next election. We hope there will be viable candidates to challenge them on this and many other issues, not the least of which is their opposition to the civil unions bill. We’ll be detailing their support for other regressive and oppressive right-wing nut measures as the 2010 election approaches.

For those on other islands the others who voted against the override were: Awana, Ching, Finnegan, Har, Ito, Manahan, and Yamane.

The non medical marijuana bills from the last session such as those for decriminalization and lowest enforcement priority are detailed in our “Year of Cannabis Reform” piece linked at the top of this article.

In an age when serious discussion is in the air on the mainland that may lead to complete legalization as a way to raise revenues through taxation it’s almost comical to see attitudes from local police departments and prosecutors opposing reform of our laws.

You would think they, like other law enforcement professionals across the nation, would wake up to the fact that it is the illegality itself that is lethal not the drug itself which has never directly caused a death.

(Parenthetically the current talk of legalization and taxation seems to be self-defeating. Presuming that any taxation scheme would include a ban on growing your own or trying to collect taxes on home grown, the whole idea of getting the criminality out of the mix would seemingly be defeated.)

Anyone seeking to assist in the task force effort can contact the Drug Policy Forum and anyone who thinks they might both qualify for and have the time to fill one of the patient, physician or caretaker positions can probably do the same or contact the appropriate appointing authority.

As it stands now we understand there aren't even any physicians on Kaua`i who will participate in the program because of the way it’s set up.

A program that is designed to alleviate pain and provide treatment for sick people has become laughable if not cruel and inhumane.

This is an opportunity we can’t afford to squander.

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