The House Committee on Health has deferred two medical marijuana bills until next week Wednesday, when members will discuss and vote on them. No testimonies will be heard on that date.
Rep. Josh Green D-6 (N. Kona), committee chair, recommended that the introducers and authors, including Rep. Joe Bertram D-11 (Maui), revise the bills to focus on the issue that Hawaii patients are unable to access legal medical marijuana while visiting another county, rather than focusing on complicated measures that may interfere with federal law.
One of the measures, HB 2675, would make medical marijuana certificates from other states valid in Hawaii. The other, HB 2678, would authorize the establishment of a secure medical marijuana growing facility in Maui.
The main arguments from supporters of the bills were that patients want to abide by the laws and not buy illegal marijuana, but found it difficult without sufficient access. They noted that the medical marijuana card holders can't be prosecuted for having illegal marijuana in Hawaii.
The Star-Bulletin interviewed Keith Kamita, chief of the state Narcotics Enforcement Division, who opposes the bills, in an article in today's paper:
Although medical marijuana is legal in Hawaii, federal law makes it illegal to transport any kind of marijuana from one island to another.
Keith Kamita, chief of the state Narcotics Enforcement Division, which administers the medical marijuana law, said a growing facility would violate federal law.
Also, because the bill mandates the DOH to control the facility, he said in an interview, "Now it's a state agency sanctioning marijuana. Say there's a bad batch and people die or get sick, the state would be liable for distributing a contaminated product."
Marijuana is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance, with no medical use allowed under federal law, and growers would have to obtain a research permit from the federal and state governments, he said.
To stress his point against HB 2675 that medical marijuana laws vary by state, Keith Kamita, chief of Narcotic Enforcement Division showed committee members what the difference between state legal limits of medical marijuana possession looks like with real bags of pot. Left: 24 oz, the legal limit in Oregon; Right: 3 oz, the legal limit in Hawaii.
Mentioned the Star-Bulletin article was an Allan Dougherty, 84, who has a criminal record for trying to bring his medical marijuana to Oahu from the Big Island. Here's an excerpt:
Dougherty, 84, said he comes to Honolulu at times for treatment at Tripler Army Medical Center and brought some marijuana with him on a recent trip because of pain in an injured foot.
It was seized at the airport, and six months later Hawaii County prosecutors charged him with transporting a detrimental drug, he said. He received a six-month suspended sentence and is on probation, he said.
He said the law restricts use of marijuana to a person's own house. "You can't take it or get it any place. I certainly hope that will be corrected so we can get our medical marijuana without all this hassle."
He said county prosecutors and the police "ignore marijuana as a medicine. They consider it to be a detrimental drug. That is a bad misnomer."
The discussion on medical marijuana lasted over an hour and a lot of good points were made. It seems highly unlikely that the two bills above will be passed in its current form; however, on Wednesday we will see if new language changes will push the issue forward for more discussion.