About the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii

The Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i is a non-profit organization founded in 1993, To educate policymakers and the public about effective ways of addressing  drug issues in Hawai‘i with sensible and humane policies that reduce harm, expand treatment options, and adopt evidence-based practices while optimizing the use of scarce resources.

The Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i envisions a just society where drug laws are grounded in science, compassion, and public health, and where criminalization is reserved for those who pose a genuine danger to public safety.

Resource: FAQ about Dispensary Bill HB321

Note: All information given here is general in nature and is not legal advice.

To view the actual text of the bill, see this document. References to the text of the bill are in the form of (page:line – line).

If you have questions that are not addressed here, please send an email to info@mcchi.org and we’ll try and keep the page updated with answers.

Will this affect my ability to grow my own medicine?

No. (46:5-9) There are no provisions in the law that affect patients’ rights to grow their own medicine. See page 46: Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as prohibiting a qualifying patient or primary caregiver from cultivating or possessing an adequate supply of medical marijuana pursuant to part IX of chapter 329.

Will my caregiver have to stop growing medicine?

Many caregivers will need to stop growing medicine on December 31, 2018 (56:11-57:10). Until this time, caregivers will continue to cultivate and provide for their patients. Some caregivers will be exempt from this phaseout, including caregivers who are the parents or legal guardians of patients who are minors or adults lacking legal capacity, and caregivers on islands without any functioning dispensaries. This provision will not go into effect until after the Department of Health has had the option to issue additional dispensary licenses in 2017.

Caregivers will still be allowed to possess medical cannabis, and to help their patients cultivate it, process it, and use it.

We, and other activists, will be working to ensure that no patients lose access to their medicine in 2019, but if you are worried about losing the help of a caregiver that you know and trust, please help us to demonstrate the importance of this relationship by writing to info@mcchi.org to tell your story so we can share it with legislators.

How many dispensaries will be allowed under the law?

Initially, there will be 16 dispensaries (5:9 – 6:2). There will be 8 dispensary licenses issued, and each dispensary license will allow for 2 retail locations and 2 grow sites. Dispensaries will be distributed as follows: 6 dispensaries on Oahu, 4 on Hawaii island, 4 in Maui County, and 2 on Kauai.

Starting in October 2017, the Department of Health may issue more licenses, up to a maximum of 1 per 500 patients in a county (6:10 – 6:15). If the current number of patients remains the same, this would be a maximum of around 26 licenses.

When will they be open?

The first cohort of applicants may begin operations as soon as July 15, 2016 (6:3-7).

The law does not state when new licensees, added after October 2017, will be able to begin dispensing medical cannabis, but this will likely be established in the Department of Health’s administrative rules.

Where will dispensaries and grow-sites be located?

There are several requirements for where dispensaries and production centers (grow-sites) can be located. Retail dispensary locations and production centers may not be at the same location (6:8-9). The current law says that: All dispensary facilities, including but not limited to production centers and retail dispensing locations, shall be enclosed indoor facilities… (15:16-18). It is not yet clear if this will include greenhouses.

Dispensaries and grow sites may not be located within 750 feet of a playground, a public housing complex, or a school (44:5-8).

Dispensaries must comply with county zoning laws, so production centers must be located where agriculture is allowed, and retail establishments must be located where commercial activity is allowed (53:6-8).

Can dispensaries ship medicine between islands?

No. While the bill does establish some protections on the transportation of marijuana, it specifically excludes protections on the inter-island transportation of marijuana. Again, this is primarily to do with federal laws that prohibit the interstate transportation of marijuana, which includes transportation by sea or air in this case. (62:14-16)


Will there be a registry or database overseeing all the dispensaries?

Yes, the Department of Health has been charged with setting up a tracking system to provide oversight of the dispensaries that will track the product, from planting through dispensing. Dispensaries will be connected to this system and update it in real time. Patients will benefit as it keeps track of amounts purchased and allows a check for product availability at other dispensaries.  (17:4-20:2)

What types of products will they be allowed to carry?

Initially, in addition to selling marijuana, dispensaries may offer the following “manufactured” marijuana products:

(1)  Capsules;

    (2)  Lozenges;

    (3)  Pills;

    (4)  Oils and oil extracts;

    (5)  Tinctures;

    (6)  Ointments and skin lotions; and

    (7)  Other products as specified by the department. (29:11-20)

No dispensary nor individual may use butane in the manufacture of of these products (56:6-10). Products made using other extraction methods and media (such as alcohol, CO2, fats and oils) will still be allowed.

Will dispensaries be able to sell seeds and clones?

This is not entirely clear. At present, there is nothing that would prevent dispensaries from selling seeds or live plants to patients who prefer to grow their own medicine.

What kind of security will they have?

The Department of Health will ultimately establish what the security requirements will be, but the law requires as a minimum:

For production centers:

  • Video monitoring and recording of the premises;
  • Fencing that surrounds the premises and that is sufficient to reasonably deter intruders and prevent anyone outside the premises from viewing any marijuana in any form;
  • An alarm system; and
  • Other reasonable security measures to deter or prevent intruders, as deemed necessary by the department;

For retail dispensing locations:

  • Presentation of a valid government-issued photo identification and a valid identification as issued by the department pursuant to section 329-123, by a qualifying patient or caregiver, upon entering the premises;
  • Video monitoring and recording of the premises;
  • An alarm system;
  • Exterior lighting; and
  • Other reasonable security measures as deemed necessary by the department; (23:7-24:12)

Who can apply for a license to operate a dispensary?

The requirements for operating a dispensary are very stringent. The application must include both an individual applicant and an “applying entity” that can be a company or organization.

The individual applicant must have been a legal resident of the State for at least five years before the date of application. They must be at least twenty-one years of age and have had no felony convictions.

The applying entity must have a Hawaii tax identification number, a department of commerce and consumer affairs business registration division number and suffix, and a federal employer identification number. A majority of the organization must be owned or made up of Hawaii legal residents or entities wholly controlled by Hawaii legal residents who have been Hawaii legal residents for at least five years immediately before the date the application was submitted. It also must show that it has at least $1,200,000 in the form of bank statements or escrow accounts, and that this has been under the control of the applying entity for at least ninety days immediately preceding the date the application was submitted.

It must be composed of principals or members, each of whom has no felony convictions. (7:1 -8:17)

Where and when can I get an application?

Applications for licenses will be available to the public on January 11th, 2016. (8:18-9:2) They will likely be available at the Department of Health Medical Marijuana Website. As soon as applications are available, Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii will make an announcement to its mailing list to that effect.

What information will be required on the application?

The application will require at least the following information:

(1)  Legal name and date of birth of individual applicant;

    (2)  Last four digits of individual applicant’s social security number;

    (3)  Validation code from an eCrim report for the individual applicant generated by the Hawaii criminal justice data center no earlier than December 12, 2015, at 8:00 a.m., Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time;

    (4)  Street address, telephone number, fax number, and email address of the individual applicant;

    (5)  A tax clearance certificate issued by the department of taxation dated not more than thirty days prior to the date of the application;

    (6)  Name of the applying entity and any other name under which the applying entity does business, if applicable;

    (7)  Street address, telephone number, fax number, and email address of the applying entity;

    (8)  Date the applying entity was organized under the laws of Hawaii;

    (9)  A certified copy of the organizing documents of the applying entity;

    (10)  A copy of the applying entity’s bylaws;

    (11)  Federal employer identification number of the applying entity;

    (12)  Hawaii tax identification number of applying entity;

    (13)  Department of commerce and consumer affairs business registration number and suffix of the applying entity;

    (14)  Name(s) of all owners of the applying entity, in whole or in part, and their percentage of ownership;

    (15)  Date when continuous legal residence in Hawaii began for each Hawaii legal resident that owns a percentage of the applying entity;

    (16)  Total percentage of the applying entity that is owned by Hawaii legal residents;

    (17)  Designation of the county for which the dispensary license applied for and proof that the required minimum financial resources of $1,200,000 are met;

    (18)  Total dollar amount of financial resources under control of the applying entity in the form of bank statements or escrow accounts;

    (19)  Date from when financial resources have been continuously controlled by the applying entity; and

    (20)  Copies of the entity’s bank statements for the twelve months prior to the date of the application. (10:14-12:17)

How will the licenses be awarded?

All of the applications that come in during an open application period will be checked to see if they meet the requirements. If they do, the Department of Health will put them in a pool and choose the best applicant according to the following criteria:

  • The applicant’s ability to operate a business;
  • Financial stability and access to financial resources;
  • Ability to comply with the security requirements developed by the department of Health,
  • Capacity to meet the needs of qualifying patients;
  • Ability to comply with criminal background check requirements
  • Ability to comply with inventory controls; (22:3-20)

The Department of Health will award licenses based on the merit of the applicant. More details about the selection process will be available by January 4th of 2016 (14:3-7).

Do I need a license in order to get involved in the medical marijuana industry?

Licensees may be able to subcontract the production and distribution to other entities so long as the subcontractors meet certain requirements, which will be established by the Department of Health. (4:14-17)

What are the fees required to operate a dispensary?

There is a $5,000.00 non-refundable fee to apply for a license, whether or not that application is selected to receive a license. There is also a $75,000.00 fee that is due once an applicant has been approved, so successful applicants will need to pay a total of $80,000.00. (9:11-17)

Operating dispensaries must renew their license annually for a fee of $50,000.00. (13:18 – 14:2)

Will growers be separate from dispensaries?

No. The final version of the bill provides for only 1 type of license, which can contain up to two retail dispensaries and up to two production centers. (5:9 – 6:2) That said, the bill seems to provide for licensed dispensaries to “subcontract” parts of their operations, either production centers or retail locations, to other entities that meet the same security and safety standards . There may be opportunities for people and organizations that are able to grow medicine effectively but not able to operate a retail dispensary to be involved as subcontractors.

Will dispensaries sell cannabis to minors?

No. In fact, the bill creates a new criminal penalty for selling medical cannabis to minors. (38:20-39:8). However, nothing in the bill prevents minor patients from accessing the medical marijuana program. Their caregiver may purchase the patient’s medicine at the dispensary. (33:1-4)

The bill also contains some restrictions on advertising and packaging to avoid appealing to children. At a minimum, they require the use of packaging that:

(1)  Is child-resistant and opaque so that the product cannot be seen from outside the packaging;

    (2)  Uses only black lettering on a white background with no pictures or graphics;

    (3)  Is clearly labeled with the phrase “For medical use only”;

    (4)  Is clearly labeled with the phrase “Not for resale or transfer to another person”;

    (5)  Includes instructions for use and “use by date”;

    (6)  Contains information about the contents and potency of the product;

    (7)  Includes the name of the production center where marijuana in the product was produced, including the batch number and date of packaging;

    (8)  Includes a barcode generated by tracking software; and

    (9)  In the case of a manufactured marijuana product, a listing of the equivalent physical weight of the marijuana used to manufacture the amount of the product that is within the packaging,… (30:4-31:9)

Are there new criminal penalties contained in the law?

There are several new criminal penalties in the law for various things such as breaking into dispensaries, diverting medical cannabis to the black market, and processing medical cannabis using butane. The new penalty that many patients were concerned about, a requirement on how medical cannabis is stored, has been removed from the bill. The new penalties are:

  • A class C felony for any person who gets any medical marijuana by fraud or by using a fake permit. (33:11 – 34:6)
  • A class C felony for anyone who isn’t authorized to enter a dispensary or production center to knowingly do so, or for anyone who works at a dispensary or production center to intentionally let someone who isn’t allowed on site in. (34:7 – 36:13)
  • A class B felony for anyone who sells medical cannabis products to minors that aren’t patients. (38:20-39:8)
  • A class C felony for intentionally diverting it for personal use or to sell. (39:9-40:2)
  • A class C felony for falsifying dispensary records. (40:3-20)


I have a card from another state. Can I access dispensaries in Hawaii?

Yes, beginning January 1, 2018. The Department of Health will be responsible for establishing a “reciprocity” system whereby people with valid registrations from other states may register with the state of Hawaii, and use dispensaries in the state. This does not mean that people who are licensed in other states will be allowed to purchase from Hawaii’s dispensaries without first registering with the Hawaii Department of Health. (33:5-10)

What educational efforts will be part of this process?

The bill requires that the Department of Education conduct a continuing education and training program to explain and clarify the purposes and requirements of this law and to provide substance abuse prevention and education. The Department of Health is also required to employ a full-time medical marijuana health educator. (46:17-21 and 47:1-5)


Was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) added as a new qualifying condition?

Yes. When the new law takes effect, doctors working with patients suffering from PTSD will have the discretion to recommend medical marijuana to their patients. . (59:6)

How much will medicine cost, and what is the tax?

There is no way to know how much medicine will cost. Medical cannabis will be priced by those who are selling it. We hope that medicine will be affordable and accessible, and that is part of the reason we have insisted on a competitive system, where patients can choose the dispensary that offers the best quality and service at the lowest price. We anticipate based on the experience of other states’ dispensary programs that over time prices will fall, and quality will improve as dispensaries respond to demand and the number of dispensaries increases.

The only tax that will be applied to medical cannabis is the standard General Excise Tax – 4% for neighbor islands and 4.5% on Oahu. A 25% tax proposed in one committee hearing was removed.


If I cannot afford dispensary prices, what options do I have?

Patients will still have the option of growing their own medicine. Patients who cannot do so but cannot afford dispensary prices can still find a caregiver to help them grow their medicine until (with some exceptions) the caregiverʻs ability to grow for a patient sunsets in 2018 (56:11-21, 57:1-9).


I do not agree with parts of the law. How can I get involved in improving it?

This bill is the biggest step forward for Hawaii’s patients in the 15 years of the program’s history. Safe, legal access to medical marijuana is a complex matter balancing the interests of patients, government, public safety, and the businesses or organizations operating the dispensaries – all against a nuanced policy backdrop from the federal government, where medical marijuana is still considered illegal but tolerated by the Department of Justice under certain conditions.  Marijuana policy in Hawaii and the U.S. is in a tremendous position for progressive change. The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, and other advocacy groups will continue to advocate for sustainable policies that benefit patients. We urge patients, caregivers, doctors, and other stakeholders to give feedback on how well the dispensary law works for them, to join our mailing list, and to be involved in the Department of Health’s upcoming administrative rulemaking process, the Hawaii State legislature, and the federal government on matters of medical marijuana policy reform.

When Will Hawaii’s Patients Be Able to Buy Medical Marijuana?

When Will Hawaii’s Patients Be Able to Buy Medical Marijuana?

That was the question answered by panelists on Thursday, April 9, 8:00 pm during the Insights on PBS interactive discussion. This show will be aired on Sunday, April 12 at 2:00 pm.

Panelists were: Representative Della Au Belatti, Pamela Lichty, President of the Drug Policy Forum, Doug Chin , Attorney General, and Alan Shinn, Executive Director of the Coalition for a Drug Free Hawaii.

If you missed it, you can VIEW it by clicking HERE.

Administrative Rules Hearings start on January 28th as DOH assumes care of Medical Marijuana Program

Since Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana Program has been transferred from the Department of Safety to the care of the Department of Health (DOH), the Administrative Rules MUST be changed.DOH MM prgm logo

THE DOH posted a Notice of Public Hearing for DOH Administrative Rules on December 20, 2014. Links to the entire DOH notice are below.

Some highlights of the notice:

The public hearings are scheduled to start January 28, 2015 on the Big Island (Hilo) and will continue on Oahu February 2nd, on Maui February 3rd and on Kauai February 5th.


The TOPICS WILL include administrative rules and the procedures for :

** Application processing, registrations, monitoring, and disciplinary actions.

** Maintaining confidentiality for patients and caregivers.

** Petitioning to add a disease or health condition to the list of qualifying  conditions.

**  Physician requirements for issuing written certifications and maintaining medical records.

Please NOTE: Topics will NOT include the medical marijuana dispensary system or the task force recommendations.

The DISPENSARY IS A SEPARATE ISSUE and and the way to give your input for that is through the legislative process –which starts ON January 21, 2015.

Also note that these RULES are required to implement the EXISTING LAWS and CANNOT CHANGE any element of it (for instance they cannot increase plant limits).


The public does have an opportunity to weigh in (details are BELOW) and all of your comments, positive or negative are equally important and encouraged.

Once all of the administrative rules are approved, the proposed changes can be officially implemented. These include initiating a process for DOH to add NEW CONDITIONS and improving the program by implementing a fully-electronic system.


Please realize that ADMINISTRATIVE RULE making is cumbersome, time-consuming and requires going through many bureaucratic hoops. It can take many months to finalize the rules, especially if substantive changes are made.

Excerpt from the Public Hearing Notice:

Pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 91, notice is hereby given that the Department of Health (DOH) will hold a public hearing for the proposed adoption of Chapter 11-160, Hawaii Administrative Rules, Medical Use of Marijuana.

This proposed new chapter would establish the medical marijuana program at DOH, including A NEW process for DOH to approve debilitating medical conditions, physician requirements to participate in the medical marijuana program, registration of qualifying patients and primary caregivers, monitoring and corrective action, administrative procedure, and confidentiality of information.



Big Island–Date: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 Time:10:30 am to 12:30 pm

Place: State Office Building, Conference rooms A, B and C 75 Aupuni St. Hilo, Hawaii, HI 96720

Oahu--Date: Monday, February 2, 2015 Time:10:30 am to 12:30 pm

Place: Diamond Head Health Center 3627 Kilauea Ave.,Room 418 Honolulu, HI 96816


Maui– Date:Tuesday, February 3, 2015 Time: 10:30 am to 12:30 pm

Place: State Office Building 54 South High Street, Third Floor Conference Room, Wailuku, Maui, HI 96793


Kauai – Date: Thursday, February 5, 2015 Time: 10:30 to noon

Place: State Office Building 3060 Eiwa St., Basement Lihue, Kauai, HI 96766


All WRITTEN testimony must be received no later than February 6, 2015, at 4:30 p.m.

PUBLIC TESTIMONY- All interested persons shall be afforded the opportunity to submit testimony, orally and/or in writing, on the proposed administrative rules at the time of the public hearing. Persons who are not able to attend the public hearing may submit written testimony to DOH: by mail at: 4348 Waialae Avenue, #648, Honolulu, Hawaii 96816; or by email at medicalmarijuana@doh.hawaii.gov

Any person requiring a special accommodation (e.g., assistance of a sign language interpreter) at the public hearing shall file a request with DOH by email at medicalmarijuana@doh.hawaii.gov  or by calling (808) 733-9010 or via relay, at least ten business days before the public hearing.

To see more information on the hearing, please click Public Hearing Notice.

To read the proposed rules, please click Proposed Administrative Rules.



Talk Story Session in West Oahu (Waianae) on January 17th. Please Join us.

cropped-dpag_bground1The Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii would like to invite you (and your friends) to a special event in Waianae.

We are hosting a “Talk Story” session.

It’s free! And, we will provide light refreshments and drinks.

All are invited to attend – if you have colleagues/friends/family that are caregivers, patients or doctors, they are more than welcome to attend. In this 2-hour session you will be given information about:

  1. The newest changes made to the medical marijuana (cannabis) program,
  2. What is happening with efforts to get a dispensary system.

We will discuss what bills may be introduced and we would like to hear your thoughts about them– as we move forward with improving the medical cannabis laws here in Hawai‘i.


When: Saturday, January 17, 2015        

Time: 1 pm – 3 pm            Cost: Free!

What: Talk Story: A chance to ask about Hawaii‘s medical cannabis laws and Legislative Updates. The information panel is: Rafael Kennedy, (Director) and Wendy Gibson, R.N. (Organizer) from the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii.

Where: Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center,  86-260 Farrington Highway, Waianae.

Directions: From Farrington Highway, turn onto Mailiilii Rd (a Stoplight).

Just past the Bus stop turn LEFT, at the Main Entrance–down the long driveway and park.

Go up the ramp to the 2nd floor of the Administration Building.

Please contact the Medical Cannabis Coalition if you have questions at  (808) 853-3231 or e-mail at info@mcchi.org.

All of our meetings are 100% confidential—but open to the public—so no video, photography or sound recordings please.

Mahalo and we look forward to seeing you on January 17th !

  • save the date

2014 has been a huge year for drug law reform efforts!

Aloha Friends and Supporters,

For Twenty-One years the Drug Policy Forum (DFPHI) has served as Hawaii’s voice in creating just, ​sensible, and compassionate drug policies.

You may know us from our two marijuana related projects that we work on with the ACLU of Hawaii:

The Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawai‘i a group supporting improvements to the medical cannabis laws in the state and Fresh Approach Hawai‘i that supports the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana for adults.

I’m writing today to ask you for your help, by making a year-end donation, so that we may continue our advocacy activities in 2015. We need your tax-deductible donation today (if possible) to continue serving as your voice for drug policy reform.


2014 has been a huge year for drug law reform efforts!

In 2014 we made a lot of headway on drug law reforms, especially on the cannabis front:

  • Two more states (Oregon and Alaska) and D.C. voted to legalize marijuana!
  • The Department of Justice strengthened its “hands-off” policies toward the 23 states with medical marijuana programs. And, congress ​​voted to prevent the DOJ, (including the DEA), from spending any money to fight medical marijuana in these states.
  • The DOJ announced that Native American tribes can produce and sell cannabis on tribal lands if they wish to- even if the state they are in does not permit it.
  • More and more states are decriminalizing cannabis, including eyebrow-raisers like Ohio and Nebraska, and we’ll be working to pass good decriminalization legislation in Hawai‘i Nei​ too.​

​A lot has been happening in the criminal justice system as well​:​

  • A ​.G. Eric Holder has spoken out on over-incarceration and on ​ways to avoid imprisoning non-violent (usually drug-related) ​ offenders.
  • California’s newly passed Prop 47 is implementing early releases and diversion into more appropriate community-based programs.

Across the nation, it seems like we are riding one big wave–But Hawai‘i needs to catch up!


The DPFH has been working ​hard to ​create a long overdue medical cannabis dispensary system ​in Hawai‘i and we hope that, with your help, 2015 will be the year. Our successes in 2014 helped create the Dispensary Task force, whose recommendations will help us fix this gap in the medical marijuana law.


We anticipate positive changes ​in 2015 when the ​medical cannabis program moves from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health ​, a department that understands public health outreach and patient privacy protections.


We’re also working on some important issues (that aren’t cannabis-related): Because the the leading cause of accidental death in Hawai’i is from drug overdoses (from both legal and illegal we are promoting The Good Samaritan/Medical Amnesty law. This will give a limited amnesty to people who call 911 in the event of an overdose. This approach has saved many lives elsewhere by preventing overdose deaths.


So there’s lots on our plate and we are feeling energized, but to achieve some of these goals we need your help.


A donation to the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i is tax deductible and can be done a number of ways

  1. through our website: http://dpfhi.org.
  2. By clicking here:
    Paypal Donate Button
  3. You can mail a check to:
    Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii,
    PO Box 83
    Honolulu, HI 96810
  4. If you don’t need a tax deduction, we could use your help with our lobbying efforts. ​To do that, please send a check to our, our 501(c)(4) lobbying organization at:
    the Drug Policy Action Group
    PO Box 83
    Honolulu, HI 96810.
  5. A donation of your TIME as a volunteer​ would also be most welcome!

Rescheduling Marijuana—A Brief History of Rescheduling Efforts


Marijuana is currently classified federally as a Schedule I controlled substance. This limits how it can be studied or used medically.

  • In order to qualify as a Schedule I controlled substance, a substance must have no accepted medical use, and must have the highest potential for abuse. Marijuana does not meet these criteria.

Although marijuana clearly does not meet the criteria for being classified as a Schedule I drug (of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act)—it was wrongfully convicted and remains locked into that “cell” while advocates work to “prove its innocence”  or at least its medicinal benefits and relative safety.

The Controlled Substances Act does provide a process for rescheduling controlled substances by petitioning the Drug Enforcement Division.  Cannabis could be also rescheduled either legislatively through Congress, or through the executive branch.  Many efforts have been tried and failed. And, there are many “criteria” for being considered a “drug” that marijuana, an herb, can never meet.

In 1972: The first petition under this process was filed to allow cannabis to be legally prescribed by physicians. The petition was denied. In 1985: The synthetic (THC) pill form was originally scheduled as a Schedule II drug and rescheduled in 1999 to a Schedule III class –which allowed doctors to prescribe it.

So, the U.S. government, while acknowledging that marijuana (cannabis) has medicinal value, does not agree with rescheduling it. Instead Federal agencies continue to stick to claims that it has no medical value, lacks safety and is highly addictive. Marijuana will continue to be an outlaw drug alongside heroin, and LSD in the failed war on drugs as long as it remains a Schedule I substance.

Multiple petitions (and the appeals) for rescheduling were denied in 2001, 2002 and 2013.

In 2008, the American College of Physicians called for a review of cannabis’s Schedule I classification in its position paper titled “Supporting Research into the Therapeutic Role of Marijuana”.

In 2014

January: a letter penned by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and signed by ten members of Congress was sent to President Obama urging him to reconsider marijuana’s status as a “Schedule I” drug.

June: the FDA conducted an analysis, at the request of the DEA, on whether marijuana should be downgraded,at a congressional hearing.  See Video here

September: World Leaders made recommendations for major changes to global drug policy. The Live-Stream conference included former Presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland.

In October (in CALIFORNIA): What started as a criminal trial led to U.S. District Court Judge, Kimberly J. Mueller agreeing to hear up-to-date evidence about marijuana’s medical usefulness and safety. To reschedule marijuana she and her colleagues must prove that the federal law is misguided and that it is entirely irrational. Decisions will be made in 2015.

Also in October (in IOWA) the Iowa Board of Pharmacy held special meetings to examine the medical value of marijuana and whether marijuana’s classification under state law should be changed. Decisions were deferred into 2015.

Recently Posted Position Statement from the American Academy of Neurolgy: The AAN, for research purposes, requests the reclassification of marijuana-based products from their current Schedule I status so as to improve access for study of marijuana or cannabinoids under IRB-approved research protocols.

And, there will be MORE TO COME in 2016!

The Road to United Nations Special Session on Drugs is scheduled for 2016. It is a special international conference to reassess the misclassification of marijuana and to examine other drug policies.


Upcoming Conferences in 2015

Two noteworthy conferences that will address Drug Policy issues are coming up in February and March of 2015.

The FIRST conference is: icbc_sf_logo_big

International Cannabis Business Conference

Februrary 15, 16, 2015    in San Francisco, California.

“The International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) is a business and networking event like none other. It is unique in that it brings in the top cannabis attorneys and professionals, as well as politicians, celebrities and journalists from around the U.S. and the world. The days are filled with networking and well-informed and lively speakers, and the evenings are filled with music and laughter. The ICBC is an environment expressly created for learning and networking and is a must attend for any serious Canna entrepreneur.


Dr. Carl Hart, Ph.D, an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University. Author of “High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-discovery that Challenges Everything you know about Drugs and Society”.

Ethan Nadelmann, founding director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), a driving force behind many successful marijuana law reform measures.

Amanda Reiman, Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA),

Dale Gieringer, the state director of California NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) since 1987

Anthony Johnson, the Director of New Approach Oregon, the political action committee responsible for the successful 2014 ballot measure that legalized and regulated marijuana in Oregon.

CONGRESSMAN DANA ROHRABACHER- Currently serving his 13th term in Congress, he represents California’s scenic 48th District. He co-sponsored the amendment to the Omnibus spending bill which eliminated Federal Funding for law enforcement interference with medical marijuana programs.


National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference

(3rd Annual), March 27-31, 2015

in Washington, DC.


The speakers are not listed, however this conference is welcome to many: Medical cannabis patients, legal professional, medical professionals, advocates, caregivers, industry professionals or professionals working in any aspect of advocacy including federal, state or local government relations, public relations, public affairs, community activism, coalitions, public policy, campaigns, PAC and grassroots, politics, legislation, and communications.

March 31st is reserved for “LOBBY DAY”.  They note that:

“We know that the best outcomes happen when medical cannabis patients and advocates have a voice in the conversation about policies that affect their lives and/or the lives of loved ones.

Research shows that YOUR citizen lobbying is 6x more effective than lobbying from special interest groups.

When you register for the conference we will make an appointment for you to meet with your Representative on our Lobby Day, March 31, 2015.”

Please pass this information along to others who might wish to attend.

Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana Program Policy Changes may be on the horizon—in the form of a Dispensary System.


The State of Hawaii Auditor’s Sunrise review of House Bill 1587 (a 2014 medical marijuana dispensary bill which didn’t pass) was released last week.

The review confirms that there will be many benefits from establishing a medical marijuana dispensary system–and not just economic benefits.  It recognizes that the current system forces patients to either grow their own or seek it out in the black markets.

The Auditor explained “Because the sale of marijuana is illegal under state law, there is no place within the state to legally obtain marijuana, which forces qualifying medical marijuana patients to either grow their own (MMJ) or seek out black market products,” the report reads. “For this overriding reason, we conclude that regulation of dispensaries is needed to protect the public from potential harm.”

The report goes on to say that without a system of regulated dispensaries, “patients’ health is jeopardized because a product’s strength, strain and lack of contaminants cannot be verified”. The report urges local lawmakers to set up a system of regulated dispensaries to serve patients.

The findings will be immediately useful during the 2015 legislative session when at least one dispensary bill WILL be introduced. The contents of the bills will be based largely upon the recommendations made by the (HCR-48) Hawaii Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force.

One of the Dispensary Task Force members, State Senator Josh Green, M.D. (D-Kona), who chairs the Senate Health Committee, offered a hopeful sentiment to West Hawaii Today  when he expressed confidence that a [dispensary] bill will pass and be signed by Governor David Ige. He also offered that “The program needs to be very tightly regulated . . . And, it should be about the patients who need it the most having access.”

dispensary SF sparc-wall

The Dispensary TASK FORCE will meet at the State Capitol (from 9 to 11 a.m.) to present some of the recommendations on December 16, 2014.

The minutes from past meetings  are posted HERE.

Could Naloxone be the Antidote for Thousands of Drug Overdoses?

Are thousands of deaths from OPIATE drug OVERDOSES                     preventable — just by giving people the antidote to take home?

Yes! There is a Life-saver. Life ring with line

Over ten thousand cases of overdose reversal were reported between 1996 and 2010 using the drug Naloxone—because the drug users were allowed to have it on-hand, as a “take-home ” drug.

The drug NALOXONE is the antidote for opiate drug overdoses. The list of opioid drugs includes legal, prescription medications such as oxycodone, tramadol, hydrocodone, and codeine as well as the illegal drug heroin.

Naloxone is usually only available in emergency rooms as an IV drug. Many people who are overdosing never make it to the ER because the people with them are too afraid to call 911.

It is NOT widely available, but it could be! It is not a controlled substance but requires a prescription. It is available in two forms. The nasal spray (shown below) is easier to use than the injectable but costs much more. A nasal injection containing the overdose-reversing drug naloxone is seen at the police headquarters in Quincy

Either form could be distributed to people who are at risk of overdosing on opioid drugs.

How many people are at risk of overdosing?

People in the United States consume more than 84 percent of the entire worldwide supply of oxycodone and almost 100 percent of hydrocodone.

In Hawaii, the number of deaths (per year) from accidental overdosing on prescription and illicit drugs has surpassed the number from all other causes, including motor vehicle accidents.

So, there are many people who could benefit from this.

A recent article in Reuters reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the naloxone “take-home” technique could prevent up to 20,000 deaths per year—in the United States alone.

WHO also estimates that about 69,000 people die each year from overdoses related to heroin or other opioids—Worldwide.

Read the whole article here

PROGRAMS on the Mainland: Nalaxone programs have been established in about 200 communities in the United States and are reporting the more than ten thousand lives save as a result of the take-home nalaxone.

PROGRAMS IN HAWAII: The CHOW Project (Community Health Outreach Workers) is one of the sponsors of the 2014 Hawaii Harm Reduction Conference. Take-home naloxone was a topic of discussion at the conference. The Chow Project is working on getting this type of program in place. A Physician Standing Order is necessary for this to happen.

So, although they cannot provide the naloxone until this happens, they do have an Overdose Prevention & Naloxone Manual.

And, to reduce the number of deaths from overdose another harm reduction strategy was recently put into place. It is called the “Good Samaritan act”. It will help to encourage people who witness overdoses to call 911 by giving them some immunity from prosecution.

We can be hopeful that someday many more harm reduction strategies will be in place to help the people living in Hawaii.

West sunset orange

Resource: What Works Best in the War on Drugs

Alex Wodak, President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, has written a superb examination of what policies work and do not in combating the harm done by drugs worldwide. w78qxxfb-1410262357

If you haven’t yet, give it a read!

The truth is that progressive, harm reduction policies just work better. Countries such as The Netherlands that have been pursuing these policies have had better outcomes than countries that have focused on punitive, law enforcement centered approaches. Progressive drug laws help society by lowering the costs and harms associated with drugs.