Monday, February 27, 2012


DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN: It's somewhere between one of those birthday cake candles that can't be blown out and a regenerating fire-breathing dragon that needs slaying on a recurring basis.

This year again, bills that would make it even harder to use one of the safest and most effective pain medications- medical marijuana- are back and are zipping through the state house. Yet the silence among those trying to stop the bad bills and actually expand the program has been deafening.

Efforts to switch oversight from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to the Department of Health (DOH) are seemingly absent and the continuing abuses of patients and doctors by the DPS have gone at the very least under-reported if not ignored after healthy debate a year ago.

But one doctor, Jim Berg, MD from the Big Island, is trying to fight back.

Berg has become the doctor who has processed the most recommendations for marijuana to patients and, in an open letter to Governor Neil Abercrombie posted last week at Tiffany Edwards Hunt's Big Island Chronicle he details the abuses of the police and DPS.

Although the letter is incredibly long and at times repetitive, it does tell the sad story of how Berg started giving his own patients recommendations- they're not really prescriptions- and, as other doctors were harassed by state and county law enforcement officials they started sending their patients who needed medical marijuana to Berg rather than fight the county and state.

Berg beings by saying to Abercrombie:

I come from the place of deepest respect as a licensed medical doctor in the State of Hawaii. Respect for you, the great peoples of the State of Hawaii, its laws, and respect for my patients. I appeal to your integrity as a politician in power to hear the pleas of patients of Hawaii suffering from severe pain, nausea, muscle spasms, and appetite loss. They would be disqualified and loose their right to use their medical marijuana if current bills HB2600 and HB1963 (SB2606) pass the Hawaii legislature and you sign them into law. Many of my patients told me personally, that you promised them while on the campaign trail for governor, that you would protect their rights given to them as legally registered patients under the current medical marijuana law. You would show your respect for the 90 percent or more of the current patients that would be disqualified by the bills HB2600 and HB1963, if you would promise to veto these bills. On behalf of the patients and doctors involved, I also ask that you repair the State of Hawaii’s administration and enforcement of the medical marijuana program for the patients and doctors, by creating a state system that actually cares its patients.

After detailing many of the local abuses of patients and disinformation campaigns by Hawai`i Island Police Department (HiPD) Berg tells a tale of years of terrorism toward both doctors and patients at the hands of Keith Kamita, the notorious Deputy Director of Public Safety whose outright lies and, as Berg alleges, illegal activities in fighting against medical marijuana are legendary.

Berg writes that:

the ringleader behind the state’s concerted efforts has historically been Mr. Keith Kamita, the current Deputy Director of Public Safety, and the former Director of the Narcotics Enforcement Division since its inception until you recently promoted him. Mr. Kamita has always been personally kind to me directly and has never suggested to me that I was doing something wrong or bad, despite my and my office’s thousands of communications together with him or his office. Yet Mr. Kamita has not been supportive of the medical marijuana program, and I believe he has spearheaded the statewide movement to hinder a patient and doctor’s right to fulfill this law, and he has repeatedly conspired to used his power to put patients and sincere doctors like my colleagues and myself in a false light to get rid of this program. His obligation as a state agent is to support the current law, not conspire against it. Let me provide some more examples of Mr. Kamita’s systematic attempts to not fulfill the medical marijuana law and to overtly enact a plan to restrict patient and doctors’ legal rights.

HB 1963, which has passed various committees and second reading and been referred to the Judiciary Committee,

Updates the law relating to the medical use of marijuana by: (1) requiring the Department of Health to submit a report, including draft legislation, to the Legislature on recommendations to the list of authorized debilitating medical conditions; (2)requiring a separate registration at each principal place of business where an applicant recommends the medical use of marijuana; (3) clarifying definitions with respect to medical use of marijuana; (4) establishing a suspension period for those violating the medical marijuana program conditions; (5) limiting the amount of marijuana that can be possessed at a location; and (6) increasing the penalties for fraudulent misrepresentations about the medical use of marijuana. (HB1963 HD1)

We're a bit under the weather so will leave it here for today. Last year we almost got through bills to not just put regulation of medical marijuana under the DOH but to start up compassion centers where it can be obtained legally- a problem Dr. Berg details in his letter. But Kamita and others, including Kaua`i Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, managed to put a last minute nail in medical marijuana reform's coffin through a campaign of blatant disinformation and fear-mongering.

But this year those bills flounder while this one and others that would make things ten times worse are moving through the legislature without an audible peep from medical marijuana advocates.

Those who need marijuana to alleviate pain without opiates need to have people stand up for some sanity. If reading Berg's letter doesn't move people to act perhaps nothing will.

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