Friday, January 30, 2009


2009: THE YEAR OF CANNABIS REFORM: Though most would have no idea amidst the mainstream media coverage of various and sundry “silly season” bills introduced at the legislature this year, a package of bills of the utmost seriousness for many is on the agenda..

It’s marijuana reform year (stop giggling) for both medical users and those who have suffered under the insanely draconian- and costly- recreational use laws in Hawai`i.

We fully expect the law enforcement and prosecutorial community to continue their fear-based and fact-lacking crusade to try to stop the sanity.

If the example of what happened on the Big Island when the voters dared to instruct their police department to make enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws the “lowest priority” is any indication, the constabulary has obviously been watching Reefer Madness too many times.

And since they’ll be there we have to be there too.

Eight great bills have passed first reading so far and three are essential to reform the uniquely cruel medical marijuana laws in this state.

The first and most important is one that would put regulation where it belongs- in the Department of Heath instead of the Department of Public Safety where it’s been since the legislature passed the measure a few years back

HB 967 (click here now and throughout the session for status) is assigned to the Public Safety, Heath, Judiciary and Finance committees. It:

Amends the term "medical marijuana" to "medical cannabis"; transfers the administration of the program from the department of public safety to the department of health; authorizes a registration fee of $50; establishes the medical cannabis advisory board; provides for the department of health to license producers to dispense medical cannabis.

The absurd practice of administering the program in a department where the leaders oppose the program has led to things like the ”accidental” release of the list of all the names of participants to a Big Island media outlet and the provision of the list to local police departments rather than having local law enforcement ask whether or not a specific patient is permitted to use cannabis.

Another farce that would end- this one if Bill HB1194 (Status) is passed- is the one that forces patients who need their medicine to illegally purchase it if they can’t grow their own- something difficult for the debilitated and chronic pain patients and something impossible for people who are diagnosed with cancer and start chemotherapy the next day- one of the most common types of users of medical cannabis..

It has also been referred to the Public Safety, Heath, Judiciary and Finance committees and

Requires department of health to grow, manage, operate, and dispense medical marijuana collectives to qualifying patients. Requires department of public safety to provide security for marijuana growing facilities and for transportation of marijuana. Limits each qualifying patient to 1 caregiver. Allows no more than 4 ounces of marijuana to each patient for every 30 calendar days.

The third medical bill HB226 (Status) referred to the Public Safety and Judiciary committees would increase the amounts patents can possess and stops the illegal sharing of medical information that current practice allows along with protecting the location of growing sites from prying eyes. It

Allows a qualifying patient to possess 12 marijuana plants and 7 ounces of marijuana at one time. Prohibits identification of the site where marijuana is grown on a registry card. Prohibits a certifying physician from naming a patient's particular debilitating condition. Allows a caregiver to grow marijuana for no more than 5 patients.

But if the prohibitionists ridiculous attempts to deny sick people medicine is cruel and inhuman their rabid irrational persecution of recreational users is not just over the top but is one of most costly boondoggles in American history.

While real felons roam free due to an acknowledged lack of resources and drunks beat their families and drive off to the next drive-in liquor store, we spend precious dollars on prosecuting otherwise law-abiding pot smokers’ use of an innocuous herb

There are five bills that would rein in the law enforcement zealots.

The first three contain three different ways to decriminalize marijuana use

HB190 (Status) in the Judiciary Committee

Reclassifies possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a petty misdemeanor to a violation.

HB227 (Status) is also in the Judiciary Committee and

Decriminalizes possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana and makes the possession a civil violation subject to a fine of not more than $100. Jud

HB1192 (Status), in the Public Safety Human Services. Judiciary and Finance committees,

Makes the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil offense and imposes fines. Requires persons under eighteen years of age against whom a civil judgment is entered to complete a drug awareness program.

The final two make it clear that we are a society where the people make the laws and determine the punishment and the police and prosecutors enforce them- a concept of civilian control over our paramilitary law enforcement agencies that some of them seem to forget.

The first would mirror that Hawai`i Island “lowest priority” provision and make it a statewide mandate

HB1193 (Status) is in the Judiciary and Finance committees and

Provides that the enforcement of laws related to the personal use of marijuana by adults shall be the lowest law enforcement priority for state and local law enforcement agencies.

The last one would bring some sanity to the idiotic “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” policy for both marijuana and low-level felony drug “offenders”

HB308 (Status) in the Judiciary, Public Safety and Finance committees

Directs the attorney general to coordinate a review of the impact of diverting marijuana and low-level felony drug offenders out of the criminal justice system into treatment.

Most of the bills were introduced by House Public Safety Committee Chair Faye Hanohano and Maui Rep. Joe Bertram, and many have support from Speaker Calvin Say, Majority Leader Blake Oshiro and Judiciary Chair Jon Riki Karamatsu – Say even introduced a couple “by request”.

But if these bills are to have any chance we need to let the chairs of the committees know NOW that we are eager for them to schedule hearings on them and let the committee members know of our support.

This could be the year, especially if we remind the legislature of the many millions wasted to interdict, arrest, prosecute and jail both sick people and those who might enjoy an evening of a less radical, more peaceful form of relaxational imbibment than the often-violent alcoholics do.

Check out the full list of committees and their members and write them an email today.

Note: We’re gonna try to set up “Actions at the Legislature” box on the left to track the bills we write about this year so look for it as soon as we can figure out how to do it.

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